Browsing Category

Contributing Writers

Contributing Writers Creative Pieces FILTERED RECOLLECTIONS - October 2018

Distilled Into Fractions

Written by Nynke Nina

 

going over and over

keeping them sharp

keeping them vivid

   

every second

slowly fading

slowly less specific

   

the sound of your voice

the looks on your face

our interactions

   

sharing laughs

sharing thoughts

distilled into fractions

   

pieces of a reality

attempt of the mind

going back to events

   

and my thoughts wander and wander

making it a cracked mirror

to what it represents

   

the blueprint

of our experiences

is far away from me

 

reminiscing

but all I get

is a sample of reality

 

the connection we had

your sound

your face

   

reminiscing

but time

is blurring the trace

   

*You can find more of Nynke’s work at Mevalia.

 
Contributing Writers FILTERED RECOLLECTIONS - October 2018

Everything Must Be Forgotten

Art and Text by Marten Bart Stork:

Everything Must Be Forgotten

I remember you.

How do you remember me?

Do we remember accurately?

 

I don’t remember being born.

Or where I was before.

 

Because everything must be forgotten.

So we can do it all again.

 

Eternal repetition.

The show must go on.

 

And we will play every scene.

In every possible way.

And we will play all the different roles.

Forever and always.

 

But we must keep on forgetting.

So we can do it all again.

 

We must keep on forgetting.

Or else we go insane.

  *You can see more of Marten’s work on Instagram.
Art Contributing Writers FOOD POLITICS - September 2018 Tuisku "Snow" Kolu

The Real Cost of Industrial Agriculture

The Hungry Ghost

Written by Elizabeth Knight

It has been found that industrial agriculture produces only 30% of our food while using 70% of our resources. While on the other hand, small-scale farmers produce 70% of our food while using only 25% of our resources. This article will show that not only is the dominant method of food production pushed by our culture not efficient, but it actually has many hidden costs.

The Cost of Emissions

While conversations grow around greenhouse gas emissions and the damage that fossil fuels do to our environment, there are still some major players that aren’t being discussed enough. Namely, Industrial Agriculture. In a report done by GRAIN, an international non-profit that supports small farmers, around 44-55 % of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to industrial agriculture.

Emissions come from several steps in food production. From the fertilizers and pesticides used to control crops. From machinery used to farm the land. From the cost of processing and packaging to transport and cooling of products. From the waste of products due to poor food waste management policies, both by governments as well as by grocery stores, restaurants, and consumers.

Then, of course, there is the growing awareness of how many greenhouse gas emissions come from the meat industry. Not only from the farms themselves but also from the destruction of forests and swampland either to house the CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), or to grow monocultures, like corn and soy, that are used to feed them.  

All of this adds up to quite a lot of fossil fuel use, most of which is not actually necessary, and some of which is detrimental, not only to the environment, but also to society.

How Industrial Agriculture Contributes to the Climate Crisis by Klimakollektivet

 

The Costs of Synthetic Fertilizer

The system of Industrial food production is based on specialization, or the establishment of monocultures. Monocultures are when huge areas of land are used to grow only one product, such as corn, wheat, or soy. This system is established because it is easier. A grower uses large farm equipment to plant one type of crop. Then this one crop is fertilized with synthetic, or chemical, fertilizers and maintained with the use of pesticides. While this may serve a short-term goal of producing said crop easier, there are several problems with an industrial approach to the natural ecosystem.

One of the first problems is the cost of fertilizing these types of manufactured ecosystems. The production of synthetic fertilizers relies heavily on the use of fossil fuels, as an ingredient of the fertilizer and as a resource needed to produce the fertilizer. The production of nitrogen fertilizers, for instance, accounts for 3-4% of the global use of fossil fuels. When NO2 fertilizers are put out they immediately release greenhouse gases, as it’s not possible for the soil to absorb all of it at once. This layer of nitrogen fertilizers also prevents the soil from absorbing any other GHGs.

Another side effect of synthetic fertilizer use is the run-off effect. The fertilizer that the soil can’t absorb, which is much of it, runs into nearby waterways. These fertilizers then keep on fertilizing, and in so doing create an imbalance in the growth of algae and seaweeds. This unnatural growth leads to a chain of events which cause oxygen deprivation in the water, killing off any animals who need oxygen to survive. These are appropriately called Dead Zones, and are entirely man-made phenomena.

The industrial agricultural process involves the use of pesticides. Unfortunately, these pesticides don’t only kill the insects which would harm the crops, they kill everything. Every small insect and animal that lives in that area – from the birds, bees, and worms – dies, creating a lifeless environment. This lack of biodiversity means that the soil doesn’t have a good mix of nutrients in it.

This lack of nutrients creates an addiction to, you guessed it, synthetic fertilizers, which contributes to creating the problem in the first place. Like with all addictions, the saddest part is that a tolerance is developed, so more and more fertilizers are required to get the same results. A huge cornfield essentially creates a huge patch of land that is functioning in a way that is entirely alien to how life on earth functions. In other words, this is not a naturally occurring system, and cannot be sustained in the long run.

The Costs of Monocultures

The next step in the fossil fuel heavy journey of food comes with the global dependency on import-export culture. If each region is growing one or two things, which must be shipped around the world to other regions which are growing a different one or two things, a dangerous system is created where no region has food sovereignty.  This is dangerous for a multitude of reasons.

First of all, it means that if something should happen to a particular crop, those growers are completely devastated. We all know the proverb about putting all your eggs in one basket, and that’s essentially what industrial agriculture is pushing. We’ve seen examples of how dangerous this can be in several instances since the onset of monoculture. From, the tragic Potato Famine in Ireland, to the citrus blights which occurred all over the Eastern Americas in the 1980’s. When growers rely on one crop they make themselves considerably more vulnerable.

Secondly, this means that in order for any one region to support itself it is dependent on imports from other regions. The cost of this creates food that is absolutely soaked in fossil fuels. From the cost of processing foods to make them last longer to the cost of packaging and refrigerating them for long journeys, it certainly adds up.  

Another cost is the loss of biodiversity in ways which also affect culture. When small growers must compete with huge operations it makes it much more difficult. This means that every year, around the world, small family farmers are kicked off of their land and displaced. Often these farmers must move to more metropolitan areas and then become purely consumers instead of producers of food. Farmer Displacement can also lead to the splitting up of families, a loss of sense of place or self and cultural identity.  

In the past decades, the world has gone from eating a varied diet, which changed according to region and season, to eating a much more narrow range of plants and animals. In every species of plant or animal that we eat we have reduced the varieties considerable. This means that all sorts of culture and heritage have been lost to monoculture farming. In so doing we have lost our autonomy. When we no longer know where our food really comes from and we cannot decide what we want to eat, we suffer. Both culturally and nutritionally. This year there have been studies citing the loss of nutritional value for crops grown in monoculture and using synthetic fertilizers. Below is a small example of how many species we’ve lost in only 100 years.

The Final Bill

There are plenty of arguments from industrial agriculture lobbyists stating that this method of production is necessary for feeding the world, for feeding our growing population. However, this method of production is short-sighted and unsustainable. It boasts higher yields at lower costs, and yet it still leaves one in eight to go hungry.

The current system of food production doesn’t include in its true costs: high greenhouse gas emissions, loss of soil health, loss of healthy ecosystems, addiction to resource intensive fertilizers and pesticides, loss of biodiversity and loss of food sovereignty.  

In conclusion, it’s time for us to genuinely consider the cost of how we eat. We should demand that our policymakers make policy that is based on science and not funded by multinational corporations that concern themselves more with profits than with consequences. We cannot continue to bend the earth to our industrial ideals. It’s not sustainable and we see more and more research to support this. The Industrial Agricultural system is a relatively new system, and it’s best for us to stop this system before we completely lose the resources to do so. There are viable answers to feeding the world to be found in all sorts of food sovereignty movements, from organizations like Grain to Via Campesina to The African Center for Biosafety. Let’s all educate ourselves about industrial agriculture and the real costs of what we eat so that we can make informed decisions and protect the world we share.  

Contributing Writers TWISTED MORALITY - June 2018

Half Actualized: Why getting better is getting slowed down

Written by Rachel Plett

Maslow’s Hierarchy is a triangle-shaped theory of psychological health. It’s probably popped up at least once in your feed, posted by one of your self-help guru friends. It starts with clean water and enough sleep, and ends with being the best you can be and finally founding that iguana cafe you’ve always dreamed about starting. You know, the one where folks can get a good latte and cuddle with big lizards at the same time. What’s less-known is that later in life Maslow added another tier to his self-help pyramid called self-transcendence. Props to Abe for adding the dimension of caring for others; but in asserting that caring for others comes after, or is morally superior to, caring for and discovering yourself, the man made a mistake. By defining self-actualization as a precursor to self-transcendence, Maslow reveals the ways in which his thinking is touched by his era and gender. All this would be NBD if this categorical error was confined to one humanist psychologist, however, this particular bias extends beyond psychology into our social, governmental and monetary systems, where it has had a profound impact on the ways in which we organize societies, governments, and markets – that is where things begin to get problematic.

Before getting into the history and economics, let’s take a look at the logic and assumptions behind putting self-transcendence at the top of the pyramid. Self-actualization is defined, simply, as the discovery and fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities. It is essentially exploring and understanding what you’re good at and who you’re capable of being. Self-transcendence is doing something for the sake of someone else, or because of a moral/ideological stance; most moral/ideological stances are beliefs rooted in how one should treat “others.” There’s nothing in the definition of self-actualization that would make it a defacto precursor to self-transcendence. If anything, self-transcendence reads best as a subcategory of self-actualization; a good way to discover your talents and potential.  

The issue with thinking about self-actualization as we currently do is that it’s regularly reinterpreted as self-interest – interest in one’s self, personal advantages, growth, and improvement. However, knowing yourself and looking out for yourself are not the same thing. Knowing yourself (self-actualization) is the goal; focusing on yourself (self-interest) and sharing with others (self-transcendence) are the parallel means of achieving that goal. In reality, everything we know about ourselves stems from our reflections on the other’s reactions to what we do. In the words of the excellent hippy Alan Watts, “Self and other define each other mutually.”

On an individual level, putting self-transcendence at the top implicitly suggests that meaning and the personal growth, joy, and satisfaction that comes with caring for others should be postponed until after one has hurdled a long (often growing) list of self-interested goal posts. This sets up a toxic “I can’t be good until I’m good enough” cycle.

It also contributes to a misalignment of self-interest and self-transcendence within society – where one is imperative and the other is impossible. The attainability of self-transcendence within society – more often referred to as altruism – is an ongoing debate that, all to often, elevates altruism to an unrealistic, unrealizable “God status” that one can’t, and shouldn’t be held accountable to. What is worse, some scoff at the whole idea as being a religious fantasy, a psychological balm devised to make this “dog eat dog” world bearable. By making altruism appear as something so unattainable or unreal, we say to each other that the best you can be is Kanye, while dismissing the path to becoming Mother Teresa, Ghandi, or MLK Jr. as impossible. So we reward absorption, enrichment, and dominance with our time, money, and attention, and wring our hands together in bewilderment, wondering why, with all this wealth, the world isn’t getting better faster.

Photo by Jose Martin Ramirez

One (if not the biggest) hindrance to this envisioned better world is the fact that we – western, politically democratic and economically liberal societies – have institutionalized the subordination of self-transcendence (caring) in relation to self-interest by relying, almost exclusively, on tax dollars and donations to fund the work and economics of caring. This institutional arrangement creates a perverse incentive system that puts economic quotas on caring and turns self-transcendence into a luxury experience reserved for the well-off, rather than presenting it as an inborn motivation that each of us should be rewarded for acting upon. The alliance of market capitalism and philanthropy is the institutionalization of the “do good after you’ve done well” relationship discussed earlier, and while the desire to recycle one’s excess should be lauded, there are a few issues that emerge from this arrangement. One of the most obvious being high net worth individuals, removed as they are from need and the social issues they aim to impact, generally lack the knowledge and on the ground insight to effectively impact the problems they aim to solve. Another issue is the fragmentation of the capital market that funds the caring economy. According to the SSIR, $390 billion in philanthropic donations are made annually, plus many hundreds of billions in government grants and contracts. However, because those contributions come from hundreds of different foundations, faith organizations, as well as state and federal governments, they create a capital market that is inherently volatile and subject to the whims and pressures of those with political and economic power, rather than being responsive to the needs and demands of the issues and communities actually being targeted. Finally, by setting up a system where the money for care work comes from donations or tax dollars, the system ensures that self-transcendent activities and enterprises have to survive on a trickle of the economic rewards generated by the provision economy, our self-interested endeavours, rather than growing organically to meet our demand for a better world.

If self-interest and self-transcendence are companion paths to self-actualization, and provision and caring are dual requirements for our health and wellbeing, how have we made it to 2018 with an efficient economic system for one and a proverbial cash pinata for the other? Part of the answer is the rise in monogamy and the domestication and disenfranchisement of women. This shift in norms and the social contract coincided with the rise of agriculture and private land ownership. Compared to the 300,000 years of humankind, monogamy is a relatively new social innovation. Current research suggests that monogamy did not emerge as a normative behavior until around 12,000 years ago; the same time society transitioned from hunter-gatherer tribes to agrarian settlements. With this transition came growing obsession with the concept of property and women got folded into this narrative. With few exceptions, these emerging agrarian societies began to treat both women and land like assets; units of productivity traded among families rather than independent citizens. As financial and governing institutions began to crystallize, women were famously excluded from the conversation; they were denied the rights to representation, vote, and own property. Furthermore, as the delegation of the of society’s three fundamental activities – protection, provision, and  caring – formalized, women’s biology predisposed them to become the primary participants in the caring economy. The benefits and injustices of this arrangement are hotly debated and not the focus of this article (many others have covered this debate and done it better). The focus of this article is the impact this arrangement has had on the evolution of our economic systems and financial institutions; what we’ve gotten right and what we’ve neglected to build in.

Photo by Rob Curran

Despite what the ideologues would have you believe, capitalism is not a natural order. It’s a social system that has evolved over thousands of years. From the first green revolution to the current data disruption, it has been enabled and renegotiated with every productivity evolution. Capitalism is a cultural system rooted in the need for individuals and investors to turn a profit. This system orchestrates a positive feedback loop where greater efficiency means more productivity (more stuff), lower prices, more demand, more money, and ultimately greater efficiency again. By design, capitalism rewards provision and motivates self-interest. It’s the best system we have for incentivizing increases in efficiency and productivity that make it possible to provide a growing variety of better quality products and services to global markets. This excess doesn’t always make it to where it’s needed, but it is produced and distributed at peak efficiency. This efficiency is a testament to the success of capitalism as a social system.

If all we required is provision to be healthy and happy, then capitalism is the only economic system we would ever need. For a growing majority, however, wellbeing no longer hinges on provision. Increasingly, our individual and collective happiness hinges on the opportunity we have to hope, find meaning, and forge durable connections; all outcomes that are tied to caring and self-transcendence. That we are drowning in an overabundance of products and options while fretting about the fraying edges of our social fabric, and struggling with loneliness, existential anxiety, and growing tribal animosity is a testament to the fact that uses for capitalism are limited to efficiency and provision and it is failing when it comes to incentivising and rewarding prosocial outcomes that are continually growing in demand.

Social liberals blame this unraveling on social media, and social conservatives point to the decline of family values, but everyone agrees that when both adults in a home “work”, time pressure and stress increase. But, there it is, in that word, “work.” We don’t see self-transcendence as a viable economic motivator. We don’t see care-work as work. We definitely don’t treat caregiving professions like good jobs and the reason for that is simple. The major formal institution that governs exchanges of the care economy’s value is marriage. In this system women and the value generated by the work they do, are traded as an asset between father and groom. But people aren’t assets, and being a care-worker should not economically shackle one person to another, nor should the economy that incentivizes this kind of work be confined by the profit motives of the provision economy and/or the political jockeying of political and religious leaders. Caring needs its own economy, one that can grow or shrink with demand; one that can take into consideration the idiosyncrasies of care-work that prohibit it from fitting comfortably into the dynamics of capitalism.

Traditionally, women have done most of the of the work in the care economy: caring for children; caring for the sick and aging, organizing communities, fortifying social safety nets and norms, and investing in education. In some cultures, if the productivity of one woman wasn’t enough you got another wife – in others, you bought a slave. Either way, the development of socioeconomic contracts that can efficiently broker the exchange of value within the care economy have been stunted by the fact that, for most of our history, care workers have been treated and traded like property. Even when institutions have stepped in, those institutions have been devoid of female leadership. Religious organizations like the Catholic Church were among the first to bring a formal structure beyond matrimony to the care economy; while nuns were the primary purveyors of care, women were barred from priesthood and therefore from the design process of one of the first civil society institutions. The same is true for government. At the time governments began establishing social programs women didn’t even have the vote, let alone equal representation in civil society and government. So, while the policies and norms were laid down for the system we have now, almost none of the primary actors informed or deliberated on the process. Man to man exclusion has led to demonstration, revolt, revolution, and war, and while this may have been disruptive and bloody, it has driven market economics of the provision economy to evolve in ways that the economics of the care economy have not.       

The communist/capitalist debate is hack. Today, the majority of countries have mixed market economies – a mixture of command (government controlled) and market (privately held) structures. However, as we discussed earlier, the care economy is mostly a command economy with limited accountability to end consumers. There are other and better answers to the question of: “how do we incentivize self-transcendence and economically reward the work of caring?” (other than through taxes and tithing). Hope, generosity, empathy, idealism, love… These are all powerful, self-transcendent motivators. The fact that we haven’t designed an efficient system to tap into and empower them is proof of the limited amount of innovation and insight that comes from excluding more than half the population – the half tasked with self-transcendent work – from the design process; not proof that the motivation is not genuine or actionable. Self-transcendence is only second to self-interest because our founding fathers and famous philosophers wrote it to be so, while their wives were busy transcending themselves every day in caring for their families, friends, and community.

Give it a little time. Us ladies are just getting to the table.

Contributing Writers Creative Pieces TWISTED MORALITY - June 2018

GreenWar: Because the Earth is worth the fight!

Photos courtesy of GreenWar

Presentation by Selçuk Balamir, Mathieu Grosche and Shabnam Zeraati

GreenWar – Corporate Identity from GreenWar on Vimeo.

Wars have always caused major destruction and loss. But they have many positive externalities as well. We would not have tin cans if Napoleon had not urged his engineers to invent a way to conserve food. We would not have computers, if the Germans had not wanted to conquer the world. And even the internet was invented by the Pentagon.

So let’s face it: wars are here to stay. It is quite unrealistic to anticipate the end of wars in the 21st century. At the same time however, it is equally impossible to ignore the environmental challenges in front of us: if we expect to keep on fighting throughout this century, we cannot just sit and do nothing about the climate crisis, deforestation, disappearing species and so on.

Our sustainable military development company GreenWar is an innovative brand adopting a unique strategic position in the industry. We see ourselves at the crossroads of arms manufacturing and eco-design. We can help you make environmentally-friendly, energy-conserving, carbon-neutral, ecological conflicts.

But of course this does not mean the end of casualties. Quite the opposite actually! At GreenWar, we see well beyond the simple human criteria. We are in a global ecosystem where each and every being contributes to the cycle of life, where “human loss” equals “unleashing springtime”. Death should not be perceived as a loss, but as an essential part of natural cycles. Cradle-to-grave and all that.

For us “sustainability” means to satisfy the need of the present generation to wage wars, without compromising the need of future generations to wage theirs. At GreenWar, ecology is a war that never ends.

Photos courtesy of GreenWar

Here is our flagship product. Bullet for the Earth is made out of eco-friendly materials and it contains seeds that grow after use. Thus every shot gives a chance to make a tree grow. Would soldiers not be more motivated, if ammunition contained rare plant seeds? After all, they would contribute actively to the cycle of life. Enemies could become trees, a true benefit for all.

Many scenarios are possible; lost bullets, bodies left in battlefields and mass graves might all potentially give life to whole forests. An offshoot can also be sent to the soldier’s family along with his ID tag, making it possible to plant it in one’s garden, keeping the memory alive for generations. The seeds contained in the bullet are of different species. Hence a large variety of forests will take place after every war.

Next year we are launching our new product: seed bombs. Much more effective than individual bullets. Drop one and let a thousand flowers blossom!

Photos courtesy of GreenWar

We run a partnership programme with Monsanto, famous for their terminator seeds, to develop genetically modified seeds specially designed for particular conflict zones. India-Pakistan, Israel-Palestine, the Balkans… you name it. We make it.

We are also pleased to have worked with the Obama administration, which obviously did not impede the  US war efforts, but nonetheless opted for more environmentally-friendly alternatives. I watched Mr. President himself give a little gesture towards Mother Nature: a fighter jet that runs on biofuels. Named the Green Hornet, it was Launched on Earth Day.

Fortunately, the US is not the only one seeking solutions! A few years ago, we were invited to this charming event at the European Parliament, the best place in the universe. It was such a timely initiative, considering that 2010 was the year of biodiversity.

However, I must admit that I was utterly disappointed when we were told that we should not expect fancy new weapons. Instead, the panelists spoke about awareness-raising campaigns reminding soldiers to switch off the light before leaving the room. If European soldiers are getting killed during convoys transporting bad, unsustainable diesel fuel to military bases, it is because of the unsustainable soldiers that forget to turn off the lights. Henceforth, the panelists agreed on the need to invest in renewables.

The world is a pretty dangerous place, but it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. We strongly believe that wars of the third millennium can be ecological, humanistic and poetical. Men should have no reluctance about going to war, they should have a good reason: ecology. Because the Earth is worth the fight!