Category Archives: Summer 2008 (4/25/08)

Chemical warfare over Bay Area cities – Who’s afraid of the light brown apple moth?

People in the Bay Area are gearing up a diverse range of actions to prevent aerial and ground applications of toxic applications against the Light Brown Apple Moth in populated areas this summer — spraying of questionable value and safety. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) classifies the Australian Light Brown Apple Moth as a serious threat to agriculture, an “exotic”, “invading” the country, a terrorist that will eat us out of house and home, and devastate 80% of the American ecosystem. It is categorized as a Class A pest, necessitating immediate and broad pesticide use if found anywhere in the country.

In 2007 after a few moths were detected, the state of California sprayed CheckMate — a moth pheromone designed to prevent the Light Brown Apple Moth from mating — from airplanes over wide areas of Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. This summer, the state is gearing up a much larger and open-ended spraying campaign covering the densely populated Bay Area — spraying is planned on the Peninsula in June, and over whole the Bay Area in August. A lot of us will do whatever we can to stop the spraying.

When a retired bug professor in Berkeley came across a Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) in his yard last year, the USDA and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) immediately sprung into action, set out traps to find more, and found so many it’s a wonder anyone still has food on their tables. The San Francisco Bay Area and California Peninsula have been under quarantine ever since, and if you’ve picked flowers for your sweetie, or shared a bag of mulch in another county, you are a criminal, just like the person who got the little bugger past Homeland Security’s beagle brigade in the first place.

After 9/11 the Department of Homeland Security became responsible for keeping “exotic pests” from crossing borders into the U.S., absorbing a large portion of USDA employees, with agriculture gaining an increasingly obvious militaristic image. To those familiar with the history of pesticides, this is not surprising. Agent Orange, napalm, and sarin all have roots in the pesticide industry. Empty pesticide containers in Iraq were portrayed as weapons of mass destruction, and used as an excuse to bomb. Even the planes the CDFA used to spray neighborhoods against LBAM in 2007 belong to a company whose primary market is national defense — Virginia’s Dynamic Aviation, “Partners Safeguarding Earth”, well-versed in “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance”, with offices conveniently located in Central America and the Caribbean.

But what the government agencies are defending here is not our food supply nor our ecosystems but capitalist interests in international trade. The LBAM is no threat to us, but it is a threat to a complex system of agro-business trade agreements, formed not to safeguard human or environmental health, but rather to guarantee supremacy in the marketplace for the U.S., specifically to crowd out competition. Four points out of the CDFA’s five point Mission Statement are directly related to international trade, addressing “invasions” of “exotics”, promoting California’s produce here and abroad, ensuring an “orderly” marketplace for it, and building coalitions to meet industry needs. The LBAM quarantine is a tool of big agro-business to achieve this supremacy.

The USDA claims that the LBAM is damaging crops and forests in New Zealand and Hawaii, but when a couple of exotic plant experts, Dan Harder and Jeff Rosendale, took a trip to New Zealand to find out just how bad the emergency is, they couldn’t find any LBAM, nor could they find any damage. What they found was that the LBAM ceased to be a problem exactly when New Zealand stopped waging chemical warfare against it, and against all the LBAM’s predators along with it. And in response to the trade quarantine imposed on it, Hawaii’s Agriculture Department pointed out that the LBAM not only is not considered a significant pest there, but may even be considered beneficial as a control measure for invasive gorse and blackberry. The LBAM has been in both Hawaii and New Zealand for over a hundred years.

Even James Carey, an entomologist, who was involved in the CDFA’s medfly program, which drenched Southern California, and other areas of the state with Malathion by helicopters, nearly three decades ago, and who is hardly an opponent of pesticides, is convinced that the LBAM is not the threat it’s made out to be, and has likely been here for decades already, causing none of the harm predicted.

What is causing harm however are the pesticides the CDFA is using. Nurseries are forced to destroy or spray chlorpyrifos on any plants suspected of infestation, or close down shop. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide that damages the immune and central nervous systems, is associated with birth defects, and genetic damage.

In 2007, CDFA pesticide applicators marched into suburbs, dragged behind them hoses, doused all things green with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), along sidewalks, into trees, and around living room windows. Bt has made hundreds of people ill in New Zealand, and is implicated in gastro-intestinal problems and damage to the immune system. They also dangle toxic twist ties from fence posts, trees and bushes, in easy reach of climbing children and other curious critters. The twist ties are dipped in synthetic “pheromones”, which the CDFA describes as “moth perfume”, to confuse any male LBAM in the area away from their mates. These are the same “pheromones” that were used in the aerial application, and have not been tested for safety. All pesticides used by the CDFA contain proprietary, secret “inert” ingredients, which are frequently even more toxic that the “active” ingredients listed on the label, and are specifically designed to interact synergistically to achieve greater toxicity than each chemical by itself. They all impact environmental, as well as human health.

After the Peninsula was doused with the “pheromone” mix in 2007, hundreds of people fell ill, including a healthy 11 month old baby who went into respiratory arrest. Homeless residents were especially impacted, as city officials ignored pleas for emergency shelter during the spray. Several pets got ill, and some died, with identical symptoms as experienced by affected people. Among the symptoms were respiratory distress, visual disturbances, headaches and inability to focus, tremors, gastro-intestinal problems, irregular and rapid heartbeat, swollen lymph nodes, and irregular menstruation, including resumption of menstrual cycles after menopause. After some of the “inert” ingredients were revealed to the public, it became clear that health complaints experienced by victims of the spray were consistent with the expected effects of the ingredients in the chemical mix.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2007 sprayings, residents reported that gardens previously full of birdsong and buzzing bees, were silent, as birds and bees avoided the sprayed areas long after. Hundreds of dead birds were “mysteriously” washed ashore. The State denies that there is anything in the chemical mix, that could possibly have stripped their weatherproofing off of the birds, or contributed to the worst red tide in decades, which was later implicated in the deaths of the birds, and blamed on surfactants in the water. CheckMate contains several surfactants. Research shows that red tide forming alga blooms prefer to feed on urea from urban runoff. CheckMate also contains urea, and it rained after the aerial spraying, with storm drains leading straight to the bay, and not all watersheds were excluded from the spray zones. Surfers, used to riding waves during red tides, reported getting ill from this one, some with lasting respiratory effects.

The CDFA claims that there is no conclusive evidence that they are responsible for the devastation, and good money is being paid to “experts” who testify that there is no provable link between the pesticide use and reported illnesses, though none ever take the time to talk with the injured. That is left to the community, and the injured themselves, who see too many “coincidences” for there not to be a correlation.

This is not the first pesticide program. Nor will it be the last. Even if we win this one, the “pest of the month club” will keep coming back, again and again, maybe by plane, maybe by truck, maybe with backpacks, and subtle ways we have yet to recognize, because they profit obscenely from it. It is no accident that all the invasive species councils are sponsored by the pesticide industry. Programs like these are fundamental to the funding mechanisms upon which Agricultural and Vector Control Departments depend across the country.

The LBAM program is part of a long-standing pattern of pesticide programs throughout the country, where conventional growers declare emergency “devastations” from their own destructive agricultural practices, and beg for state and federal funding to bail them out. Industrial agriculture is at the heart of their emergencies. Mono-crops and chemical use, which exploit rather than nourish the soil and its creatures, cause an ever revolving crisis of vulnerability to so-called pests. Organic farms of great biodiversity, which more closely mimic naturally evolving ecosystems and maintain their own balance, are not significantly affected by these “pests”.

To name just a few of the CDFA’s pesticide programs, in the early 1990′s it was the Phylloxera (which the CDFA can thank for its beginnings in the small State Board of Viticulture, established around this root louse in 1880), in the mid-late 1990′s it was the Blue-green Sharpshooter, in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s it was the Glassy-winged Sharpshooter, now it’s the Light Brown Apple Moth, with the Gypsy Moth in close pursuit. After all those tax dollars spent, and years of toxics dumped onto people, wildlife and the environment, all those “pests” are still around, getting it on with the uneradicated Medfly, the epitome of the CDFA’s devastating and failed eradication programs. And while people are the ones dropping like flies, from immediate impacts like asthma and other respiratory distress, and longterm effects like cancers, and disabling neurological and immunological illnesses, often resulting in equally crippling poverty, CDFA officials are accumulating their nest eggs from a career of poisoning the public, all the while claiming safety for every new chemical they introduce. It is, incidentally, illegal to claim pesticides are safe.

The CDFA is expanding the LBAM pesticide program to the entire Bay Area this Summer. Aerial spraying is planned to resume in the Peninsula in June, and begin in the Bay Area in August, months in and months out, for years to come. Preceded by, and concurrently with, applications of the “pheromones” mixed with permethrin, a neurotoxic, endocrine disrupting, carcinogen, that’s particularly deadly to cats. Applications are planned, in drive-by fashion from squirt guns, on a minimum of 3000 utility poles and trees per square mile, about 8 feet off the ground, just overhead, and in reach of children on shoulders, and climbing. These pesticides are designed to be time-released, and to persist in the environment between applications. Many people who have already been sickened, and previously immune system-compromised, have already left the area because of the CDFA’s pesticide program, fearing for their health, and their lives, and many are planning to follow before the next applications start in their neighborhoods.

Others see no other option than to stay and fight back. Lawsuits have been filed. Reformist legislation has been introduced. Letters written. Protests held. And as the deadlines for the continuation of this program encroaches upon us, people who have never thought of civil disobedience and direct action, are preparing themselves with non-violent action trainings and affinity group formations. Some are talking about blocking planes on the ground and in the sky, by building kites, and raising massive helium balloons with banners into the sky. While CDFA thugs threaten with starvation from the LBAM eating all our food, and threaten with even more deadly pesticides if we stand in their way, and tell us that we have no right to keep them out of our own gardens and homes, that we have “no vote”, people are looking to the USDA’s own Emergency Programs Manual, which makes the best case for joint actions and a united front with our neighbors: One of several conditions under which an emergency program can be terminated is when “Sociopolitical opposition prevents emergency action”.

To organize non-violent civil disobedience and direct action trainings, and for more information, including toxicology, locations, and other details of all pesticide applications, and a comprehensive analysis of the CDFA’s LBAM pesticide program, please visit www.DontSprayCalifornia.org

Live Small – Economic growth expands into world mess

Living small — it is the opposite of living large — the opposite of always wanting more. For people in developed countries with access to incredible material abundance, living small means using less resources, less space, and having less stuff than we perhaps could have. It can mean practicing voluntary simplicity that emphasizes free time, community, engagement, meaningfulness, stillness, beauty and love — not necessarily achievement, status and constant activity.

For me, the idea of living small in particular means figuring out what enough is and taking joy from having enough, rather than chasing my tail hoping I’ll someday be happy if I just have a little more. Enough doesn’t just refer to money or things — figuring out enough goes for everything humans do from work to play to love to stimulation. Figuring out what is enough and achieving satisfaction with it is hard but can be a key to achieving a sense of meaning on a personal level. If you’re always seeking more, you’ll never get to the pot of gold and you’ll always feel a sense of dissatisfaction.

Enough is a crucial concept not just on an individual level, but on a social, economic and environmental level. Our individual psychology and values are structured by social and economic factors, and in turn they can structure social and economic relations. Living small isn’t just about lifestyle politics isolated from the struggle to change systems that structure the world and that are beyond the control of individuals. Experiments in living small can help inform the types of psychological, social and economic transformations that are possible and necessary for our world.

Economic growth

Humans have built economic and industrial structures that depend on constant, permanent economic growth and expansion. Along with those systems and in particular capitalism go cultural norms that expect constant and permanent expansion — people expect their lives to be better than their parents lives and people expect to get more as they get older and move through life.

Increasingly, the built-in automatic expansion of our economy has begun to run up against the reality of a finite planet. There is only so much land, only so many fish, only so much forest, only so much air, only so much water.

When each individual on Earth uses more and more resources each year, eventually you run into scarcity — not just because of unequal distribution of resources which has been the main cause of scarcity in class societies, but because there aren’t sufficient ecological resources to go around. The current run-up in food prices are associated with increasing global wealth on a finite planet — more people who can afford to eat meat and drive cars burning biofuels are putting pressure on a finite supply of agricultural land, driving up prices. The rich consume as much as they like — without regard to what may be enough — and the global poor go hungry.

The term “sustainable” gets thrown around a lot these days — what does it mean? For a system to be sustainable, it must be able to continue whatever it is doing indefinitely. Forever. That means that each element in the system has to balance with all the others. In a natural system that means that precisely the amount of food or other resources needed by each creature has to be created by some other creature or by the sun or Earth each year without destroying the ecosystem’s ability to create those same resources the next season. Using a sustainable amount of a resource is like spending interest earned on a savings account — but leaving the principle in the account. If one withdraws more money than the interest earnings, one decreases the principle in the account — which decrease the next year’s interest earnings, and eventually will lead to an empty bank account.

Our current system is not sustainable because it must — by its own internal logic — grow every year. The forces of competition continuously increase efficiency and production by requiring each company to constantly grow, reduce costs, increase production, increase sales, or succumb to another firm that is more efficient at doing those things.

The system includes no mechanism for determining what is enough and thus limiting growth, and in fact many people are employed to make sure that nothing is ever enough. The advertising industry and ever evolving consumer products exist to constantly create new needs and satisfy them. Things that hadn’t even been imagined or that were considered luxuries fifty years ago are considered necessities now — bottled water, ipods, etc. There are legions of economists to calculate each year’s economic growth and figure out how the economy can continue to grow, but no profession or academic specialty or government department specifically devoted to understanding what is enough.

The world economy grows about four percent per year compounded in each future year, forming an exponential curve that gradually goes up more and more steeply. (See figure.) Generally, economic activity and thus economic growth measures the extent to which humans transform nature — by extracting raw resources like food, trees, oil and by processing those resources into manufactured goods.

Economic growth is generally considered a good thing according to a capitalist value system. When there is less economic growth (as now in the current recession) that is cause for concern.

However, in a finite ecological system, a constant exponential growth of resource use is a grave cause for concern, not a good thing at all. For example, if you have cancer, you don’t want to hear that the cancer has a constant four percent growth rate, because that means that eventually, the cancer will demand so much of your body’s resources that it will kill you.

Live Small

I go through this long (and perhaps boring) exposition of the incompatibility of capitalist growth with ecological sustainability because if growth cannot continue indefinitely, then developing the concept of enough and living small is crucial in order to avoid ecological disaster. Capitalism as a system won’t impose limits on itself — only people and our values and sense of meaning can steer and limit the voracious machine.

Grappling with the concept of enough — living small rather than living large — means struggling against very powerful personal, social and economic impulses, which all tend to be intertwined and support each other to cause individuals to constantly want more.

Although as a practical matter I’ve been living small one way or another for most of my adult life — avoiding the worst of the work rat-race, having a small room in a shared house, not having a car — I’ve recently been having a mid-life crisis and feeling psychologically uncomfortable with my life. Not so much the material aspects but the choices that I’ve made that emphasize simplicity also mean that I’ve given up the potential for some types of status or achievement. I’m keenly aware that by this age, I expected to be doing more important stuff — in essence to be living larger. I’ve made my choice hoping that achieving a meaningful life would have more to do with my engagement, experiences and human connections than with money or status.

This crisis has been confusing but also has been helping me think through my own deep assumptions about what is enough and how I get meaning out of my life. Living in this society that worships unending growth, it is very hard not to internalize those goals on a personal level even if one understands that socially and ecologically, they are unsustainable and dangerous.

Life stages

Part of the feeling might be from the personal trajectory our lives take. There is an appropriate time for growth both on a personal level and for a human economic system. For an individual, when one is a child you need to grow, learn and focus on achievement. In your 20s and 30s, you have not yet achieved stability — a place to live, a way to earn a living — and you need to focus on growth to achieve these things. If you’re lucky enough not to be mired in poverty, the concept of enough becomes crucial at some point. Once you’ve achieved what you really need to live, if you’re not careful you’ll just continue growing your status, workload, and material possessions beyond what you need — beyond enough.

You’ll do so because, having struggled when you were younger, you’ll be in the habit of emphasizing further growth. And you’ll continue uncontrolled growth because the social/economic system of capitalism worships growth as its only value — no one bothers to discuss what is enough because it is assumed that growth can go on forever and that if you’re not growing, you’re irrelevant. The system assumes that what is enough now won’t be enough later.

On a personal level, you internalize this dynamic and come to expect that every year you’ll have a better job, a bigger house, more expensive vacations and recreational activities, etc. There are few role models for people who have decided to step off the growth path because they had achieved enough and found meaning from life as it is, rather than from chasing growth. These personal psychological dynamics are caused by the capitalist system but they also serve to cause it — consumers are always anxious to consume more and managers always want to grow their companies bigger so they’ll achieve more status.

A similar historical dynamic seems to apply to human societies. At a certain point in history, when a society lacks a stable source of food, adequate housing and warm clothing, economic growth makes sense because the society hasn’t achieved enough under any reasonable understanding of what enough might be. As economic growth proceeds, societies reach enough but continue growing because of the self-executing economic system they have devised. Rather, they change their definition of what is really enough, societies increase it along with economic growth.

Since humans live on a finite Earth, we have to both personally and socially grapple with the concept of enough and change our desires so we can live at a stable level once enough has been achieved. We have to figure out how to feel a sense of satisfaction and meaning from stability, rather than always seeking satisfaction and meaning from growth.

On a personal level, one may spend 10-20 years developing one’s career, fixing up housing, and developing talents only to reach mid-life and have to transition away from a growth-focused sense of meaning and over to a different kind of meaning. For me, after years of working as hard as I could and being busy most of the time, it has been jarring to realize that having achieved enough, I now get to sit back a little bit more, read a few more books, go for longer bike rides, and spend more time tending the garden, and less time building it. Or as my friend Terri noted, “maybe when you reach middle age you should be more like a plant ‘going to seed’ — not coincidentally a derogatory term in our culture. You concentrate wisdom and energy to be passed on to the next generation.”

Dialogue on Enough

On a social or economic level, grappling with enough and then trying to stop economic growth and enjoy stability has to start with discussion. Capitalism has its own logic to supply easy, mechanical answers to what work people will do, what buildings will be built, what products will be created and what resources used — so people are let off the hook from having to engage in uncomfortable discussions. The problem is that these easy answers have no ultimate meaning — capitalism creates a world disconnected from human happiness or environmental sustainability.

In trying to answer what is enough, at least two factors can guide us. First, you have enough when people can meet basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, etc. These are relative and change based on history and culture — there is a lot of room for disagreement. What is necessary for one person or group of people is luxury for another. What is important isn’t necessarily to have a single, ultimate answer but to engage constantly and vigorously in discussion.

While developed countries need to look at what is enough, it is important to realize how many people on Earth don’t currently have enough material resources. At least billions of people lack even minimal resources such as enough food, clean water, basic health care, adequate shelter, etc. This is to say nothing of resources necessary for self expression, education, communication — all resources that every human on Earth should have access to in order to achieve enough in the first place. The developed countries need to struggle with enough in part because our over-consumption makes it impossible for many people on Earth to have enough.

Second, enough has to be linked to some sense of the resources that humans can take from the Earth in a sustainable fashion. This is also a highly debatable point. The standard capitalist response to the argument that there cannot be unlimited economic growth on a finite planet is that economic growth can solve ecological problems — as a society gets richer because of economic growth, it can adopt cleaner technologies which permit a higher standard of living while using less ecological resources and creating less ecologically damaging waste products. For instance a rich society can replace scarce resources like trees with recycled paper or hemp.

These arguments are suspect since, at least so far, more growth has caused more ecological damage, not less. Some resources actually are limited — for example, no matter how you can substitute different resources, the total acreage on Earth remains the same. But to the extent these arguments are correct for some particular examples, perhaps the best response is to embrace growth of these technologies — not all growth is bad, just unlimited, unthinking growth.

Society can incorporate technically sustainable innovations into the concept of enough. For example, if some goods can be created more sustainably, then the ever-changing idea of what is enough can reflect that. In other words, if solar or wind or other renewables turn out to permit certain standards of living, that is great — let’s see the proof first rather than hoping, in a utopian fashion, that generalized, unlimited growth in all new technology will save us some day in the future. We can be very suspicious when corporations say that by buying more — re-usable bags, hybrid cars, etc. — you are saving the planet.

For privileged people in developed countries, enough may be considerably less than the resources to which people have already become accustomed. This raises especially difficult questions — no one wants to voluntarily give up what they grew up with. Perhaps part of the answer is in shifting values and understanding the tradeoffs human beings make. Part of having material things or status above what is enough may be having less than enough of other things that are undervalued or not considered at all — time, freedom, stillness, meaning, sanity, beauty, unspoiled natural areas, engaging work, vibrant community. Capitalist value systems only take money and status seriously, but human beings have much more diverse and complex needs and aspirations. In considering enough, we are challenged to look carefully at the tradeoffs we’ve been making thoughtlessly — the ways we’ve conformed to economic value systems that may be meaningless.

This may all sound uncomfortably mushy — values and a discussion of the concept of enough seem a mighty soft counter-force to the cold hard steel of global capitalism. In a society focused on capitalism, science, and rationality, we may feel ashamed to apply values — distinguishing between “right and wrong” or “better or worse” — because these concepts seem weak and “un-scientific.” What gives anyone the right to say what is right and wrong? You can’t prove it. You risk engaging in guilt politics asserting your own values against someone else’s.

In fact, human values and judgment are more crucial now than ever before. Capitalism can create growth, but it can’t answer the question of why it is growing. Determining enough requires debate — no one gets to impose their values on others — but a discussion is vastly preferable to obeying mechanical answers spit out by a inhuman economic system. This discussion can lead to the practice of real politics — not politics as traditionally imagined — but a process whereby discussion leads to some level of collective consensus and action based on arguments that transcend purely mechanical thinking and attempt to get at what it means to live meaningfully and sustainably.

We’re stopping the party in St. Paul – and you’re in on the plan

This summer, the Republican National Convention will descend on Minneapolis-St Paul to add to the pacifying spectacle that is the 2008 presidential election. The most direct way to oppose this dog-and-pony show is just to stop it. It’s worth recognizing that the RNC is a symbolic event — we all know who the nominee is, and the convention is just a chance for his party to gather and toast themselves at our expense. Stopping the convention won’t stop the election, but it will disrupt their spectacle and prove that we have the power to shape our own communities and future.

In this spirit anarchists and anti-authoritarians from all over the US gathered in Minnesota’s Twin Cities last fall to discuss the 2008 Republican National Convention and hashes out a framework for anarchist resistance. Through a process of consensus in the main strategizing session and the action breakout that followed, attendees developed a three-tiered strategy for denying delegates access to the RNC.

The tiers are organized in order of priority according to the number of participants; if a small number of participants show up, only the first tier will be carried out, but if the numbers are on hand, all three tiers will be in effect.

Tier One: Establish 15-20 blockades, utilizing a diversity of tactics, creating an inner and outer ring around St. Paul’s Excel Center, where the RNC is to take place.

Tier Two: Immobilize the delegates’ transportation infrastructure, including the busses that are to convey them.

Tier Three: Block the five western bridges connecting the Twin Cities.

Those plugging into this strategy will be free to shape their actions as they see fit, using the tactics they consider appropriate.

It’s the plan we have, it’s the plan we’ve been working on for months. One of our best assets in RNC preparation is time. Organizing started almost two years in advance of this convention, and that is a huge advantage.

In the months since the pReNC, the Welcoming Committee has been directing much energy towards disseminating information about this strategy and facilitating cooperative organizing for RNC resistance. There are many reasons why this three tiered plan, focused on blockading, makes sense

Geography

The geography of the 2008 RNC lends itself quite readily to a blockading strategy — unlike conventions of past years, this one is being held in a city without the capacity to sustain it alone. St. Paul is not big enough. Thus, convention-related events are happening all over the Twin Cities metro area, bringing Minneapolis into the fold. And between Minneapolis and St. Paul, there are still not enough hotel rooms to house the thousands of conventioneers who’ll be descending on our cities for four days. So, delegates, media, staff and extras will be housed throughout St. Paul, Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs, requiring that they all be transported to and from their hotels en masse (mostly on several hundred city buses contracted specifically for that purpose). Thanks to the mighty Mississippi, they’ll mostly have to be funneled across a small number of bridges, and thanks to the car culture we live in, they’ll only have a limited number of entrances to downtown St. Paul from which to choose. Few conventions have presented such clear transportation vulnerabilities, and we would be foolish to pass up the opportunities those vulnerabilities present. The 2008 RNC is begging to be blockaded.

Diversity Of Tactics, Diversity Of Participants

Calling for blockades sets a radical tone for the day without dictating the forms of resistance that people engage in. Anything from a lockdown, to a pile of gathered materials, to a yoga bloc in an intersection, to a good, old-fashioned traffic jam, helps create the desired effect, and the more diverse the actions, the less likely the cops will be prepared to deal with them all. Last summer’s G8 protest in Germany created a change in the landscape of our organizing. Dissent! and Block G8 were able to mobilize huge amounts of people because of the open and participatory manner in which it was organized. The blockading strategy provides ways for large numbers of people who would likely be excluded from other strategies to plug in, through large, effective, accessible actions that meet people closer to their comfort level and provide clear avenues of participation for folks who aren’t experienced or aren’t already a part of strong militant networks.

Simultaneously, there is ample room for small affinity groups with the capacity to plan and execute their own actions to do so. The pReNC framework creates a way for all of these actions to complement each other, resulting in an output greater than the sum of its parts.

Opening Up Space

Not everyone is into blockading, and that’s cool, but a lot of other tactics — the more mobile and offensive sorts, for example, are hard to do well in a space where large numbers of cops have easy access to any sites of potential interest and there’s little else going on to hold their attention. Successful execution of the blockading strategy, however, will actually create spaces more conducive to other tactics than we would otherwise see.

Little Engines Can

Any strategy we come up with and have the resources to execute is bound to have its weaknesses — we are, after all, human — but one major recurrent weakness that we have the opportunity to alleviate in this round is that created by a lack of internal cohesion. Obviously, as anarchists, it is not our intention or our desire to see the homogenization of our movement; we do believe that our strength rests quite heavily on the diversity of thought and tactics found on our side of the barricades. But our strength rests as heavily on a shared understanding that diverse tactics are most effective when they are implemented in a way that is complementary to each other.

In touring the country and discussing the strategy with anarchists all over, it’s become quite apparent to us that lots of people are pretty damn into it. They’re organizing, seriously and in big numbers, and willing to put in the requisite work to make this specific strategy successful. Given any two plans of equal strategic merit, the plan that incites broader enthusiasm, energy and support, is the plan more likely to succeed — and we believe the three-tiered strategy is such a plan.

“For more info on RNC resistance, see: www.NoRNC.org. If you have questions, comments, arguments, and/or want to get involved, email rnc08@riseup.net. See you in the streets!”

Introduction – Slingshot issue #97

Slingshot is an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

We’ve managed to pull off another issue, despite the fact that half the articles arrived after deadline and we got consumed endlessly rewriting everything late into the night. It didn’t help that there was a full moon, crazy windy weather, another bicyclist got hit by a car right outside our office window, and some of us celebrated 4:20 on 4/20.

Looking around the circle at our last, sleep deprived, bleary eyed meeting, we weren’t stressed out, sullen or frustrated — we felt an exhausted elation. Like lovers who make love too damn long, sometimes doing Slingshot is so fun and invigorating that we don’t know how to find balance and keep perspective. Sitting in that circle, we weren’t just talking about replacing consumerism with community and coercion with cooperation — we were actually living it. Making Slingshot together inspires and connects us in ways that rarely happen in everyday life.

We worked on this issue with the sun shining in from the roof warming our backs. We work in a loft in the Long Haul Infoshop, a space inhabited by people talking, eating — having meetings and events. The lack of privacy and quiet and public engagement can be challenging, yet the influx of new people bringing art, ideas, feeding us, and spontaneously getting involved is probably the reason the paper gets done when we are overwhelmed .

There was a lot happening in the world that didn’t make it into article form this time around. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rage on. In Berkeley a modest on-going Code Pink demonstration against the Marine recruiting station attracted hundreds of flag-waving counter-demonstrators, leading to a large chaotic scene. Right-wingers, incensed at a tiny article about Code Pink in last issue, have flooded our email box with hate and threats. We cover a lot of Berkeley oriented actions like this protest that could serve as inspiration for actions elsewhere. Almost every city has a military recruiting station . . .

Past Slingshot articles warned that the biofuel craze could lead to food shortages and pointed out the morbidity of cramming food into gas tanks. Now this summer, the prices of food staples such as rice and grains are rising, with unrest and the misery of famine looming. The contortions of trying to square the circle of never-ending economic expansion and declining resources look more and more painful.

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors & independent thinkers to make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to being edited.

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot collective, but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to all who made this: Apple, Compost, Dominique, Eggplant, Ginger, Gregg, Hunter, Izzi, Katie, Kathryn, Kermit, Melissa, PB, Samantha, Sean, Stephanie, Xarique and all the authors.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on Sunday, August 17, 2008 at 4 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below).

Article Deadline and Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 98 by September 13, 2008 at 3 p.m.

Volume 1, Number 97, Circulation 16,000

Printed April 24, 2008

Slingshot Newspaper

Sponsored by Long Haul

3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705

Phone: (510) 540-0751

slingshot@tao.ca • www.slingshot.tao.ca

Circulation Information

Slingshot is free in the Bay Area and is available at Long Haul and Bound Together Books (SF), plus lots of other places. Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA who has a Slingshot organizer, or cost $1 per issue. International is $2.50 per issue. Back issues are available for the cost of postage. National free distribution program: Outside of the Bay Area, we’ll mail a stack of free copies of Slingshot to distributors, infoshops, bookstores and random friendly individuals for FREE in the US if they give ‘em out for free.

Back issue Project

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage: send us $3 for 2 lbs or $4 for 3 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. Or drop by our office. Send cash or check to Slingshot to: Slingshot 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705.

Help design the 2009 organizer

Thanks to everyone who bought a 2008 Slingshot Organizer — they pay for this paper to be free all over the place. A few distros still have copies left. We’re about to start working on the 2009 Organizer which will be available October 1, 2008. Contact us now if you want to help create the 2009 organizer — there are many ways to plug in.

• We need help editing, correcting and improving the list of historical dates. Deadline for finishing: July 1.

• If you want to design a section of the calendar, let us know by July 1 or send random art for the calendar by July 1. Deadline to finish calendar pages: August 1.

• Send us cover art ideas or drawings by August 1.

• We’re always on the lookout for corrections / additions to our radical contact list. Deadline: August 1.

• If you have ideas for the short features we publish in the back, let us know — we print different features every year. Deadline: August 1.

• If you’re in the Bay Area during the first two weeks of August you can help with the final organizer design — all done by hand, which is extra fun. Contact us. We especially need to find some really careful proofreaders in mid-August.

In an unfortunate note, we received a box of defective organizers from the binder — the pages pop right out when you open the organizer. It appears most of them were sent to Chicago, Seattle and Cambodia. If you got one, please let us know and we’ll send you a replacement. We feel really terrible about the problem.

Distribution window

Once the organizer is finished, our unpaid, all volunteer collective gets overwhelmed by packing and shipping work. To save our sanity, we’re only going to deal with the wholesale distribution of the organizer from September 11 – Halloween. We strongly encourage infoshops, stores, etc. to contact us during that window to order the organizer — you’ll get a better wholesale price that way and we’ll get a better deal, too. After Halloween, folks can get wholesale copies of the organizer from for-profit distributors.

Everglades uprising – an invitation to help create a Loxahatchee Free State

This Summer, you’re invited to join Everglades Earth First! in launching a sustained campaign of direct action to defend the ecologically rich South Florida Everglades. Since 2006, Everglades Earth First! (EEF!) has been involved in challenging a massive gas-fired power plant proposed by Florida Power & Light (FPL) a quarter-mile away from the Arthr R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The plant –which would consume over 6.5 billion gallons of water per year, emit 12 million tons of CO2 annually, requires 34 miles of gas pipeline through the L8 Canal/Loxahatchee Basin system and would invite over a million homes worth of sprawl– is now under construction in violation of Federal and State laws, including NEPA, Clean Air and Water Acts, ESA, the National Wildlife Refuge Act, RICO, and others. While courts are reviewing the environmental permits (or lack of), FPL and the Gulfstream pipeline are moving ahead, considering the “Final Certification” of former-Governor Jeb Bush as their justification.

Over the year EEF! has added our protests to the chorus of local dissent, which has sadly not included several other environmental groups due to FPL pay-offs. We have obstructed the road to FPL’s annual shareholders’ meeting, blocked the entrance to their illegal construction site on the Palm Beach Aggregates, covered the County with flyers and posters and confronted them face-to-face at nearly every public hearing.

We are ready to take our fight to a new level. Over the next year, while the pipeline and plant are under construction, we intend to launch a sustained campaign of direct action to bring attention to the greed of the energy industry and the failure of the government to respond, even within the bounds of its own corrupt system. We will set up camps on public land to monitor the progress of these projects and slow them down at every step we can. We will document their violations from the field (a tactic known as ground-truthing), we will stop them from harming a fragile ecosystem and its endangered species (including over 100 identified gopher tortoise burrows) and we will help turn the tide against the Energy Empire once and for all. Our camps will model the sustainable, cooperative and decentralized worldview that we believe in. We intend to reclaim the goal of restoration from the stranglehond of bureaucracy into the grassroots community… And y’all are invited!!

The Everglades Bioregion & it’s Threats

The Everglades bioregion is the watershed of South Florida, where a tropic and sub-tropic climate blend, originally starting in the Orlando area’s chain of lakes following the Kissimmee River basin into Lake Okeechobee and leaking out towards the coasts, creating marshes, sloughs (including Pahayokee, the Shark Valley’s famous river of grass), hammock islands and rivers loaded with wildlife. A bioregion is “an area of land which shares similar environmental, physical, climatic conditions and contain characteristic ecosystmes of plants and animals” (Goulthorpe & Gilfedder 2002)

South Florida was inhabited by land-based cultures known to us as: Calusa, Jeaga, Tekesta, Jobe, Ais and others. As Muscogee people from the Creek Confederation were forced to migrate south, the culture came to be known as Seminole and were soon joined by escaped African slaves (known as Estelusti). During the Wars of Indian Removal, the Everglades was one of the final holdouts of indigenous resistance to the encroaching U.S. Empire and its ongoing holocaust against native cultures. This bioregion is still home to the lands of Seminole and Miccosukee Tribal reservations, as well as lands held by the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation, which comprise some of the last unceded native territories in the Eastern United States. There were never legitimate treaties with the U.S. government south of Lake Kissimmee; according to agreements made with General Worth and signed by President Polk in 1845, Florida’s southern-most 5 million acres was set aside for the remaining Seminoles in Florida.

Today South Florida’s environment is a strange dichotomy. It is simultaneously home to one of the country’s largest expanse of protected wild area and one of the most degraded, threatened ecosystems in the U.S. Over the past century, countless reports, books and articles have been written about the demise of the Everglades. The last few decades filled shelves and files with stories and studies on the costly and overly-complex attempts to resuscitate the vast wetlands.

With near $10 billion public dollars (and rising) earmarked for restoration, what is considered the most ambitious restoration project on the planet has become a cash cow of corruption tainting nearly every agency and organization its money touches. There is an industry of advocacy groups and foundations that are dependent on the business interests and crooked politics of Everglades restoration — what we call the Environmental-Industrial Complex. If the Everglades had as many people defending it as it has researching and debating its defense, perhaps you wouldn’t have to bother reading this today.

While scientists and engineers spell out the hydrological failures of quality and quantity to sustain the ecosystem, the developer’s bulldozer keeps on rolling, building towering coastal condos, aquifer-sucking sprawl and all the polluting roads and power plants needed to support this cancer-like urban growth. As Big Agri-Business works their political connections to re-zone land for their final crop of concrete-and-steel across the Everglades Agiculture Area, the question of whether we can restore the historic flows of the Everglades region becomes moot. Add in the projections for coming climate change if we don’t reduce greenhouse gases immediately and the Everglades ecosystem, and all the plants and animals that depend on it (including us), are done for. From this point on we draw a line in the beach sand and swamp muck and say: No More.

For more info, check: www.RiverofGas.info or www.EvergladesEarthFirst.org or contact: EvergladesEarthFirst@gmail.com (donations to the monitoring camp can be made online)

What a long strange Tree-sit

[Ed. note: As we go to press, a court decision is imminent regarding whether the State will allow University of California [UC] to destroy the Memorial Oak Grove on Piedmont Ave, just north of Bancroft Street in Berkeley, which has been occupied by a treesit for over 500 days. UC has stated that it will attempt to forcably remove the treesitters soon after the ruling. Come to support the trees during this critcial time!]

Before the seedling of empire was exported to North America to flower into today’s nightmare, Great Nature and the people who lived here coexisted harmoniously. Amongst those people were the Ohlone, who buried some of their dead beneath the soil on a certain hillside in what is now called “Berkeley”. The trees we are defending are rooted in this very hillside.

On April 13, 2008, the Berkeley treesit celebrated the 500th day of occupation. It is the longest urban treesit in ‘U.S.’ history and has wide range community support from a diverse group of people, from houseless peoples to students to forest defenders to old grannies and wealthy Berkeleyites. The treesit has gained national and international media recognition, both of which bring visitors from all over the world to see the trees and experience the magic that is the sacred Oak Grove. Through five hundred days of resistance, we are saving the Memorial Oak Grove and calling attention to countless other issues surrounding those specific trees, like the fact that the UC has developed every nuclear bomb that the United States has and UC Berkeley’s storage of Native remains for science experiments.

For UC it’s ‘business as usual:’ cut down the grove of locally endangered trees, tear up the hill, and build a high-tech sports facility.

Perhaps one day the forest that lived here will return. Perhaps we’re too hopeful and all is lost, but reversing the trend of cutting down trees and tearing up hills seems to be an important first step, especially for UC — whether it’s in their economic interest or not.

Cutting these trees would desecrate a Native American burial ground and WWI Memorial, violate state environmental law and local tree ordinances, and wipe out a wildlife corridor and one of the last intact groves of Coast Live Oak trees in the Berkeley lowlands. We need to honor and preserve established groves of trees, not destroy and fragment the few that remain.

We can’t recount every moment, but here are some highlights from the last few months.

After 8 or 9 months of a beautiful and dynamic ground encampment in the Oak Grove, and after several hundred people climbed and sat in the trees, UC made its move: Two barbed wire chain link fences, 24-hour security guards, and loud generator powered flood lights pointed into the trees. Sound intimidating? I bet they thought it sounded intimidating, too. For us, it was an opportunity to display our adaptability and determination. The network of occupied trees in our web expanded outside of the fence BEFORE it was even completed.

After having spent a fortune on an ineffective “solution” to the treesitter “problem”, UC’s next move was to arrest supporters for sending up supplies, for receiving things that we sent down, for alerting us to the presence of law enforcement — they even attempted to intimidate supporters from speaking to us, citing emotional support as another form of “aiding and abetting” Berkeley’s “criminals” in the trees. This was done on authority of a flimsy court order that came out of a SLAPP suit [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation]. Ground supporters have heroically tolerated the brunt of the repression – and resisted it.

In response to the mounting repression, re-supplies are now every Sunday at 2:00pm, spearheaded by Grandmothers for the Oaks. And it works!

We have also inspired two other treesits: one on the UC campus in Santa Cruz, defending redwood trees and challenging destructive development plans for 150 acres; and the other, a 19-day treesit in the middle of UC Berkeley campus, bringing attention to UC’s oppressive power structure, its involvement in nuclear weapons production, its holding captive 13,000 Native American remains, and other fucked up things it does.

In mid Febuary, UC invaded the Oak Grove with an early morning raid using a “professional” climber, who drove his spiked boots into four unoccupied trees. As word spread and people began to mass at the outer fence, several supporters sprang into action, free climbing various outer-perimeter trees- with cops on their heels- to gain access to the canopy network. By this time the UC-hired climber had already severed several key traverse lines, which we use to go from tree to tree in the air. He cut the lines, and failed to remove them completely. So from the other end the lines appeared to still be intact, causing one treesitter to cross to the other end of the line, only to find the severed end of the line draped over a branch and weighed down by a 5-gallon water jug. As the UC-hired climber made his way to the other end of the grove, treesitters were already busy resetting the lines that had been cut. The climber then delivered what would be the ‘money’ shot to the media. TV reports about this entire showdown were summarized by a shit bucket plunging 20 feet and exploding in a dazzling display upon the paved walkway below. The shit would then flow back into the bucket and the bucket would tumble back into the tree, only to have the climber kick it over and have it explode again — this time in slow motion.

Perhaps by now, UC has figured out that repression only makes us stronger. Each action by UC results in a resurgence of support and vitality for this campaign.

Spring is a time for ACTION! We are NOT going down without a fight! For a celebration of self-determination and resistance to empire, come live with us in the trees, participate in a community re-supply, or visit any time! We’re the tallest squat in the Bay.

For more info: 510-938-2109 saveoaks.com

Dance the eagle to sleep – University of California Regents vs. students, humans & the Earth

The reassuring aspect of fighting a bureaucratic monster like the University of California is that they often make decisions that are blindly dangerous to their goals to operate smoothly and without public scrutiny or contestment. I offer up as evidence the decision to hold a meeting in San Francisco of the governing board of Regents on the anniversary of the war and invasion of Iraq. The streets that day promised to be full of protesters. But perhaps reality is one part social engineering mixed with one part crap shoot. By controlling the communication lines and economic outlets, one can hedge one’s luck with insurmountable odds. The Regents’ meeting at UCSF on March 19 saw a mere 12 protesters blocking the doors, hardly enough resistance to even make the meeting start late, and business went on as normal. But the potential was there – thousands of people dissatisfied with the war, corporate culture, and poverty, could have overwhelmed and disrupted the monster’s course of devouring all.

Are You Angry Yet ?

The Regents are a small group of wealthy, smug people who manage the ten public universities in California. The system of schools helps the state be one of the seven biggest economies in the world. The economy is strengthened by agriculture, entertainment, high-tech and bio-tech, war and weapon industry, and rich natural minerals. Much of these resources are largely brokered through corporations who would like nothing but the populace at large to ignore their operations. The Regents likewise are not popularly elected, 18 of the 26 are put into power by their partner in the State’s governor seat. The Regents incidentally seem most interested in the pursuit of land acquisition and development, and forming partnerships with mega-corporations. Tuition continues to rise, doubling every couple years, along with the salaries for those with Regents’ seats. One could see a parallel going on with higher education and the society at large. The access to information is restricted as the middle ground between extreme wealth and poverty is being clear-cut, but if more people got a glimpse into the complete picture, there would be a dramatic increase in the number of lock-downs before administrative meetings.

The Empire Dreams

In the weeks preceding the Regents’ big day in SF, a group of UC Berkeley activists held a meeting to organize a rebuttal. Many of them were with the newly formed student group “Free The UC.” The group came out of a collective of progressive organizations called the Phoenix Coalition. They held a gathering a few weeks before hand which included a daily free school that was mostly ignored by the 30,000 plus people going to classes. The meeting this night was also largely ignored. Scheduled to start after a showing of a documentary on Iraq in one of the student co-ops, the group seemed small and low energy, though the film demonstrated the gravity and life damaging forces operating while we sleep.

When the meeting commenced, it was obvious that only three or four people were really cognizant of the proposal to do a direct action. The dry erase board was filled with an agenda of mundane tasks to get through that ranged from outreach to civil disobedience training. The day of action was in two weeks. During the initial introductions one potential protester obliquely asked, “What does this have to do with the Olympic torch?” referring to the contested, news savvy Tibetan crisis with China. Yes Indeed what does it have to do with the Olympic torch.

But the organizers showed considerable patience in not getting derailed. It is not a safe assumption to see everyone having the same experience and values geared for protests. Their work was not eased by the staggering work load students of today keep up with, which also keeps them out of activism. The effect of having brain melting high tuition is not only fattening the coffers of the absurdly rich, but in the people who would desire to make trouble for the rich and powerful out of the universities. Instead of going to this meeting or others like it, students are shitting anxiety with not only making it through school, but landing a good job afterwards. One cannot help but think that this is by design.

What we see now with our schools dates back to the mid sixties when Ronnie Reagan (then Governor of California) put a fee on the privilege of higher education. Part of his motivation was to cool down the momentum of people power enigmatic of those times. The activism bursted through on until the 1980′s when poor people could still get into UC Berkeley. Students were engaged in such successful campaigns as divestment in South Africa, support for Central American autonomous movements, and in nuclear disarmament. The campus could hardly keep a ROTC from burning back then, much less open. Ten years ago, the gutting of Affirmative Action helped dwindle enrollment of African Americans and impoverished people who actually live near Berkeley. Now with a year of classes having a price tag of well over $20,000, its no wonder the place is a play ground for chain stores, christians and an influx of team spirit colors.

A CLOSER LOOK

The actions and attitudes of UC Berkeley can be a localized example of the larger doings of UC Regents, and the unchecked power divining the world. The frenzy at which UC Berkeley is going for broke must be quite intoxicating for those who sit in plush board rooms making plans. Those plans may find a couple critics who cry out, but often those cries are isolated and ineffectual.

Native Americans have been making a stink wanting return of over 13,000 Ancestral remains. The University has not relented for it would damage their status of having the largest collection of Native American artifacts outside the Smithsonian.

It would seem lately that the University has no regard for undeveloped open space. A little off campus the proposal to build on the Memorial Oak Grove seems insane as buildings lie empty on nearby Telegraph Ave. The UC has already built a Nano technology building in the beautiful hills of Strawberry Canyon. They also have plans to fill those hills with several other large buildings, like a computational building and a 70 person guest house. Building plans are in the works to bring high rises in the downtown of Berkeley and to develop on the Gill Tract, a large urban garden in nearby Albany.

The most controversial proposal is in building a research lab for biofuel. This will put UC Berkeley into a financial bond with the mega-petroleum corporation BP, as well give it the distinction of making the largest known pact between corporation and University. This brings up the concern that a corporation will influence what is studied and why. But the University has a tainted and controversial history of partnerships with other giants of big money. Most easy to note are bio-tech industries, who are in the middle of their genetically modified food experiment on the public, and in developing nuclear weapons.

For every self congratulation the UC gives itself for being Green or the birth of the Free Speech Movement, there is the ugly reality. Take for example the interactions with the hotly contested People’s Park. The Stage at the park was painted over three times by the UC to cover up the simple message “Democratize the Regents”. Instead of entertaining a discussion of the notions of Free Speech the university passed a new decree– Any messages painted on the park’s stage will have to be approved by them, the self appointed owner.

The collective energies of UC Berkeley would reveal an insane élan behind their numerous atrocious acts. One can’t help but wonder if they are taking cue from the Bush Administration’s attitude of free plunder of our commons. In the sixties, activists in cities all across the U.S. uncovered a direct connection between the colleges they attended and toxic producing corporations, and the war machine. They soon learned that the research and work they did was being used in ways they found to be nefarious. There is little to suggest this funneling of resources ever stopped.

The Empire’s Nightmare

Sometimes when small breaks in our landscape of social control appear an angry and determined people get together and plan. The Anarchist book fair in S.F. on March 22 provided a space for such an event. It was days after the action at the Regents’ meeting and the largely ineffectual war protest. A discussion was held in a side room away from book sellers and speakers. The room of folks largely talked on the treesits happening in both UC Berkeley’s and UC Santa Cruz’s campuses, as well as issues of other California campuses like the growing unrest at DQ University in Davis, and problems at SF State. Toward the end of the hour people started to universally voice that it was time to expand this movement–for alliances to be made with protesters from all of the college campuses.

Treesit supporter Ayr said, “I would like to see opposition to the Regents be on the scale of what we see with the WTO, one where they can’t meet anywhere without disruption.” An idea whose time has come. The room was largely comprised of people who live on the fringes, so it will be hard to see what will come of this. What is needed is a unified opposition to unchecked power, but one that is not just comprised of students and counter culture types, but of the communities of people who live among the campuses and see their world transformed without their input.

The action to shut down the Regents’ meeting on March 19 didn’t go in the wind. The organizers kept the pressure on but sought another approach. This time, on April 13th it was a conference to bring into coalition all the progressive organizations on Berkeley campus. The list was heartening; gay/lesbian coalition, affirmative action, students for Palestine, etc. Time will show what actions they take. When The Phoenix Coalition held a similar conference, it gave birth to “Free The UC”. This then inspired a two week treesit on campus that challenged UC on multiple issues. The “Democratize the Regents” idea is catching. The force of people willing to lay aside the promise of a career or security within the system can threaten the smooth runnings of a monolith power such as UC, especially if the determination spreads exponentially throughout the general population to include youth, business people, retired folk, etc. It is such a direly needed exponent that will lay to wreck the plans of those who seek to shape our environment against our will, and gamble with our lives. This summer we could send a clear message to the next Regents’ Meetings; May 14-15 at UCLA and July 16-17 at UC Santa Barbara.

Revisioning Values: our actions matter!

It’s all messed up! As our eyes open to the truth of these times, the depth of the problems becomes overwhelming. It’s all messed up! The economic structures, our value system, the way we interact with nature, social patterns, our water and waste systems, health care, education, transportation, food…iyiyi — how did it get like this? And what can we do about it now? It seems we need a profound change, so let’s work on profoundly re-visioning. Perhaps this is the most important work of our community — to find and plant, and learn how to grow the alternatives. Which of course we have begun.

New Principles:

*We are connected with all life

This, to me, is a profound rethinking that must occur to save our (and many other) species’ butts. In so many ways our culture now demonstrates that it has lost this essential truth. Anti-biotic soap. Hello, we are biotic. The tons of products we pour into our environment to kill germs will undoubtedly affect us. Our fear of and impulse to destroy almost all other species that dare to invade our space seems an aberration of nature. Witness ant sprays — because we are uncomfortable with a line of ants cleaning up after us or the impulse to automatically kill spiders in our homes (despite their benefit to humans by eating our predators.) We use pigeon spikes to evict pigeons rather than provide acceptable nesting places. We poison rats rather than build owl boxes. In general we make very little effort to share our environment with other species even when it is beneficial. And the untouchable subject of animal testing shows how far we have been able to wall off our psyches from our connections to all life. Our fear of other critters has been created by our lack of knowledge and experience of the natural world around us and exploited by advertisers. Children are growing up in cities with very little contact with natural wilderness. They often fear it or think it “nasty”. Native peoples see other species as kin and miss their absence.

*Share

It seems Americans have been sold a value system through advertising. The Church of Capitalism preaches that more stuff is better, that new is better. That you will receive love and respect if you have more stuff. In other cultures wealth was measured by what you gave to others, not what you hoarded for yourself. Where is the big advertisement in the sky that could remind us of the values of simplifying and sharing? How can a person with a second home scurry past a person sleeping on the street and feel okay? We can feel a more vital happiness and worth through community and sharing than through the accumulation of stuff.

*Slow and Simplify

Another disaster from all our consumption is that it is killing the planet. We are filling up landfills. There is a floating pile of plastic in the middle of the ocean that is the size of Texas. Dramatically we are creating and spreading toxic cocktails all over. Humans invented ways to rearrange molecules and create substances that had never previously existed on earth. It is only in the last 80 years or so that the ecological web of life has had to figure out what to do with plastics, pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceutical drugs, solvents, adhesives, fragrances, preservatives, polymers, artificial flavors, polyester, etc. And now genetic engineering and nano-technologies will unleash whole new clashes with the evolved ecology.

Use less stuff. The advertisers manufactured false needs. Try quitting lotions, make-up, deodorant, mouthwash, shampoo, detergent (okay maybe a little eco dish soap), sunscreen (wear a hat..), etc. Your body will re-adapt and you won’t be poisoning yourself and the rest of us.

I sigh beseechingly — slow down. Take a deep breath. Detach from the economic system of perpetual increase. What if we all just collectively slowed down? Everyone starts to work half as much. Everyone can just stay in their homes. If you have a nice one in the hills with a pool, great — be grateful. Everyone’s home is where they live and if you don’t have a home you can create one somewhere that is not being used.

And construction. It needs to be guided by wisdom, not profit.

For new products, use the “cautionary principle”. It is insane to continue to allow new substances and technological products onto the market before they are tested for toxicity, not to mention disruptive potential on the ecosystem. I just read an article in the Oakland Tribune about some UC profs who decided to do a study on how much nano-silver comes out in the wash of the new “smell free” nano socks. Excuse me? There are products already on the market with nano silver, found to be 45 times more toxic than regular silver? And it is going into the sewage, therefore water systems, and therefore sludge used for fertilizer — despite very little being know about filters that can contain nano-sized particles IF someone was even trying to. And where are the studies or social discussions about the potential disruptions to human, animal and plant life on this planet? Yipes.

*Time is all we have, really.

Remember the gift of existence and bloom as beautifully as we can, in the soil we are in, to become who we are. What you do with your time IS your life. Don’t give it away to a job that is not what you want to spend your life doing, especially if the payoff is more toys. Please people — honor life and take a week off instead of buying some new appliance. Turn off the TV and live your own life. Turn off the ipods and sing your own songs. Make your own love. Discover yourself, your community and the living world around you. Reconnect with that which sustains life and brings joy. Flow with the seasons. Spend time in nature. Spend time alone. Grow your own food. Listen to birds. Watch the stars making circles in the night. Strive.

Just say No: G8 in ’08

The G8 Summit — a meeting of the leaders of the nations that monopolize two-thirds of Earth’s wealth– will take place July 7-9 at Toya Lake in Hokkaido, Japan. Although the Group of Eight does not have any legitimate right to decide planetary affairs, they have self-appointed themselves world rulers. The G8 drives neo-liberal globalization — spreading poverty, violence, hatred, segregation, and environmental destruction.

NO! G8 Action is calling for an International Day of Action on July 5 before the summit. Most of all, we would love to have you come to Japan! This is a crucial moment for Japanese social and political movements to open themselves to global coomrades to uplift all our spirits. For this your creative engagement is indispensable.

In Japan, our action days will begin on July 1. There will be a series of themed demos in Sapporo — the city nearest Toya Lake — during the succeeding four days. July 5th shall be the day of mass rally and demo in Sapporo with a simultaneous protest in different cities of the world. During the three days of the Summit we are planning mass direct action at sites near Lake Toya. People are trying to approach the site as close as possible to send their voices.

The themes for the days of action are tentatively: (1) Anti-neo-liberalism, namely, anti-poverty, homelessness; (2) farmers’ day; (3) anti-military base/anti-war; and (4) the day of natives and minorities, symbolizing the Ainu people, Hokkaido’s native habitants before Japan’s colonization in the 19th century. If you come to Japan you are encouraged to make proposals or organize your own actions in consultation with Japanese groups. Your creativity is most welcome and appreciated.

Various Projects

The Japanese activist scene needs global connections and exposure, so we ask for different types of participation. What is crucial primarily is a convergence, namely, to meet and talk person-to-person. Aside from the actions, we are planning the following events:

All the activists who have a little extra time are encouraged to meet at workshops and speak about themselves. These will take place in Tokyo, the Kyoto/Osaka area, and Sapporo, around the end of June. There will be a series of symposia featuring activist type intellectuals such as: Michael Hardt, David Graeber, Marina Sitrin, and Andrej Grubacic, who will come to Japan for solidarity.

Music concerts of Anti-G8 themes are planned in Tokyo, Sapporo, as well as at the camp near Lake Toya, the site of the G8. The participants are punks, Djs, and vanguard musicians who took part in the Sound Demonstrations against the Iraq war.

In Sapporo City, we are organizing screenings of films related to the Global Justice Movement and the Anti-G8 projects from the past. Various kinds of radical theater groups are going to take part in the anti-G8 protests — some in their own theater space, others on the street or other sites.

There will be an Alternative Summit (from July 6th to 8th), involving a wider range of groups including NGOs. NO! G8 Action is going to be a part of it. There will also be a summit of the natives. Meanwhile the state of Japan is planning an international conference of university presidents. Against this a coalition of students’ organizations calling for protest.

Facilities for foreign visitors

To get to Sapporo, which is the nearest city to Lake Toya and the biggest city in Hokkaido, you will have to fly either via Tokyo or Osaka. Hokkaido is connected to the mainland only via airplane or boat; there is no car traffic accessible to it. So all of you might as well stay in either city for a period of time before the summit and participate in the events.

In Tokyo, we will set up a convergence center where you can get information and participate in workshops. We will secure the cheapest accommodation (about $15 per night) and also organize a network of people who are willing to accommodate visitors for free.

In Sapporo, there will be a convergence center. There will be a camp where you can stay with your own tents and sleeping bags. There will be workshops and events. There will be an independent media center, where foreign media activists can go and set up their station.

From Sapporo, Lake Toya can be reached by train (three hours). There will be a camp and media center there as well. This is the place where the main events will take place.

Japanese Police and Immigration Issues

The most common weapons Japanese police carry are truncheons, plastic shields, and sand-stuffed gloves. They used to use tear gas and water-cannon, but not much recently. Pepper spray has not been used for some time, but some source says that they might start using it. They don’t do mass-arrests like the European and American police. They tend to do close combat by forming a line and arresting people one by one by drawing them into their side. They are not as aggressive as American and European police forces.

It is not illegal to hide your face on the street. One does not have to respond to their interrogations; one does not have to let them check your belongings. If you are Japanese, once you are arrested, you are advised to be completely silent, and likely to be held for twenty-three days — the extensions of three days, ten days, and ten days. The enormity of the custody period has been criticized by Amnesty International.

In the past, foreign political activists have rarely been arrested. The police prefer to let them go. Probably there is a policy of not making political events internationally known. Japan tends to be very nervous about their international reputation. We are hoping that this will remain the same for the anti-G8 2008.

In any case, a legal team has been formed, while politicians and civic organizations have organized a campaign to watch police behaviors toward the G8 2008.

The bad news is that beginning from the late November, Japan will begin to employ the same immigration rules as the US. It is locally called the “US Visit,” where all foreign visitors are finger-printed and photo-taken. People are organizing a wide opposition to this. We cannot tell you how severe the restriction of the immigration will be for the activists coming for the anti-G8 protests. But we can recommend the activists who have many arrest records in the past and are nervous about it, but absolutely want to come — please contact us and we shall try to make special visa application. All in all, if Japanese immigration restricts foreign visitors too severely on this occasion, this will be made into a international stir. We will prepare a campaign for this.

For info check http://a.sanpal.co.jp/no-g8