Category: Organic

madeline-hughes-data (1)Who wouldn’t agree? 2017 was a year of mind-blowing events.

We won’t even try to address the politics here. Instead we’ll take a look at a (heretofore) safe subject: The weather. Specifically, what several natural disasters meant for our food supply.

In February, ongoing drought in Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen and Somalia resulted in famine so severe the U.N.’s Under Secretary General described it as “the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.”

In March, Cyclone Debbie ravaged Queensland, Australia and caused unprecedented losses for vegetable, sugar and horticultural farmers.

April’s monsoon rains in Sri Lanka created the worst floods in decades, compromised up to fifty percent of agricultural land and left nearly a million people food-insecure. (This, by the way, followed the country’s worst drought in forty years.)

In August, more epic flooding in Southeast Asia created severe food shortages and polluted the water supply for 16 million people across Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, costing the United States US$200 million in agricultural losses.

September’s Hurricane Irma damaged up to 90 percent of agricultural lands in the Caribbean, Cuba and the Florida peninsula and Hurricane Maria delivered the same devastation in Puerto Rico.

October brought historic wildfires: Northern California wine country suffered US$3 billion in damages and the fire ruined the livelihoods ofseasonal farm workers.

And, as we write this in December, the largest wildfire in California’s history rages in the biggest avocado and lemon-producing region in the U.S. The agricultural losses are yet to be calculated.

Catastrophic weather events change the DNA of the areas impacted in ways that we may never be able to fully compute. Yes, many of these areas will bounce back. But they will bounce back differently than they were before.

In this era of climate change, can we predict or control what that “different” will be? How do we protect our food supply from future catastrophic weather events? And, afterwards, how can our farms and farmers recover well enough to feed us again?

There is a great source of hope in traditional seed: Because, more than GMOs or hybrid seeds, naturally adapted seed has the best chance of surviving weather disasters to feed us in the future.

Here’s how Vandana Shiva describes it:

Extreme weather/Seed Play ButtonIn addition, organic, biodiverse agriculture that respects the integrity of the soil and natural water systems can also prevent and mitigate extreme weather damage.

Permaculture, biodynamics, agroecology—any regenerative agricultural system that works with nature’s processes—will invariably fare better in drought conditions, recover better after fire or freeze and absorb water better when flooding occurs.

It’s on this hopeful note that we look forward to the New Year. In concert with Mother Earth, we have the tools to restore, to adapt, to feed the world and to thrive.

It all begins by showing some love for the seed.

We wish you all the very best for 2018!

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Precious and Kale
Meet Precious Phiri who spends her days teaching farmers in Zimbabwe how to mitigate climate change.
 
Specifically, she instructs them in holistic land management, a method that rejuvenates depleted water and degraded soil while drawing climate-changing C02 out of the atmosphere.
 
Originally trained by the Savory Institute, the enthusiastic Ms. Phiri explains that a cornerstone of holistic management is that eco-systems without animals create ecological imbalance. Grasslands, for example, deteriorate when the food chain that keeps them alive is disturbed. Deprived of a symbiotic relationship with ruminants, grass dies and then soil dies. And, in the process, climate-disrupting carbon discharges into the atmosphere.
 
It’s simple but not obvious: Ecosystems need both fauna and flora to thrive. Think of the oceans without whales or Yellowstone National Park without wolves. It’s the great web of life.
 
The phenomenon, sometimes described as a “trophic cascade,” is a biological process that flows between every part of the food chain.
 
Here Precious explains it: 
Precious Phiri Play Button
Here’s another obvious but often-overlooked fact: Healthy humans come from healthy food that originates in healthy soil. And there is no way to support this synergy between our health and the biosphere in an industrial food system: Big Ag and Big Food disrupts precious water cycles, destroys biodiversity, pummels the biosphere with toxic pesticides, and imprisons innocent animals that should be on the land. This isn’t mere sentiment; it’s actually climate science.
 
In a regenerative world, it’s OK to eat meat, but if you’re going to do so, it’s imperative to transition to organic, grass-fed and free-range–and not in the quantities Big Ag and Big Food would have you do. Any other way and we are contributing to global warming, impacting our health and, by the way, engaging significantly in animal cruelty. Of course it’s more than OK to be vegan or vegetarian but, ecologically speaking, there is also an argument for conscious meat eating.
 
Vandana Shiva is vegetarian and also a founding member of Regeneration International, an organization that promotes and researches this stuff. Here’s a clip of her talking about the animals at her Navdanya farm.
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And here are some books to read if you’d like to know more:
 
 
It’s a whole new world of hope for the environment, the climate and our own health. Perhaps the most hopeful story ever that too few people have heard.
 
P.S: About progress on our film about Dr. Shiva’s life story: We’ve just completed laying in additional dialogue, now we’re working on music and B-Roll. Onwards we go!
 
Please contribute to this next phase of our film about Dr. Shiva’s life story here: Every bit helps to get the film completed (and into your hands) sooner rather than later!

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Thank you to the hundreds of people from all over the world that completed our survey. In fact we are still receiving responses; if you are interested, join our “advisory team” and complete it here.
 
We asked you what was your top concern, and you told us: Access to Healthy Food.
 
That said, as one respondent noted in her comment: “Everything here is connected–and urgent.” That thinking is clearly reflected in the results.
 
Following Access to Healthy Food (79%), you prioritized:
 
Pesticides, Herbicides and other Toxins in our Food (78%)
Environmental Degradation and Pollution (78%)
Climate Change (73%)
Loss of Biodiversity (73%)
Corporate Influence over Government Food Policies (73%)
Globalization (71%)
Hunger and Poverty (71%)
Displacement of Farmers and Land Grabs (71%)
Unfair Trade Deals (60%)
Here’s a short video clip we just put together of Dr. Shiva addressing the issue of interconnectedness…and quantum theory!
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 We received hundreds of comments on the survey. Most mentioned the difficulty of ranking any one problem over another and many were understandably despairing of the status quo. A few respondents stood firm that industrial agriculture and GMOs were the solution to the issues we listed; in fact one suggested we “start embracing biotechnology and leave outdated, environmentally unsound organic practices behind.”
 
Here is a short selection of other thoughts from different participants.
 
“I am Native American and a sustainability scientist. I believe if you explain more about colonization, economic imperialism and unethical for-profit science, more people will fight to stop those influences.”
 
“I would bring up the loss of tradition, knowledge and cultural/social diversity as well as the loss of connection between land, seasons, people and food that is at the core of healthy food.”
 
“Hearing about solutions would be very high on my list of priorities. Knowing what’s being done and working makes me a better advocate and activist. And a more hopeful person.”
 
“It’s not going take old minds with new programs to change the direction our societal river is flowing–it’s going take new minds and an entirely new vision.”
 
“Time is running out. We must pull together and re-energize grassroots movements to overcome these perils.”
 
We agree. The enormously critical issue of food was ignored by both candidates in the U.S. presidential race, despite a bi-partisan poll  that found that 53% of likely voters agreed that too many Americans can’t afford healthy food in their communities, 81% believe that food policy is focused on money over health, and 75% favor State support of sustainable farming.
 
The President Elect has no published food policy, is considering a Cabinet list that includes Big Ag executives to the Department of Agriculture and a Climate Change denier leading the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
Our only hope is the burgeoning food justice movement that does more than call foul on polluters, but also offers real solutions to the food crisis, the environmental crisis and the crisis of democracy all put together in a message of hope. Presidents and politicians will never save us; historically, only strong grassroots movements have ever brought about meaningful change.
 
So, onwards: Our next post will include video commentary on the issues raised in the survey.


By the way, we’d love to hear from you. Please send us your comments here and let us know what you think.

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Soil Not Oil banner
“Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.” Vandana Shiva
 
Join us on Thursday July 21st when local groups will come together in Ojai to support both the Soil Not Oil International Campaign and the upcoming second annual Soil Not Oil Conference with an evening gathering of film and discussion. Camilla will be there sharing new excerpts from The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, and there will be other short films on soils and carbon farming.
 
An Evening Gathering to Support
The 2nd Annual Soil Not Oil Conference
Thursday July 21, 7.30PM
At The Farmer and The Cook, 339 W. El Roblar, Ojai, CA 93023
THIS IS A FREE EVENT
 
Our advisory board member Steve Sprinkel will be there, so will Margie Bushman & Wes Roe of Santa Barbara Permaculture Network, David White from Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Conor Love Jones of East End Eden Farm
 
Why are we supporting Soil Not Oil?
 
In 2015 the first Soil Not Oil Conference was held in Northern California in solidarity with the Soil Not Oil and Terra Viva Campaigns launched by Dr. Shiva, who was one of the first to make the connection between climate change and the disastrous soil practices of industrial agriculture.
 
Because our lives are entirely dependent on the health of our soils, Soil Not Oil and Terra Viva advocate for the care and regeneration of soils worldwide. These campaigns and the Soil Not Oil Coalition call for the extensive restructuring of land management practices, especially in agriculture.
 
Permaculture, agroecology and all regenerative agriculture practices are key to combating climate change, restoring water cycles, stopping ocean acidification, re-establishing biodiversity, improving food production, and revitalizing local economies across the planet.
 
What’s not to like?
 
As we face the possibility of only four more years of water in our valley, we know that rapidly accelerating human-caused climate change is an imminent global threat, including to us in Ojai. One clear thing to do is reverse our engagement in the fossil fuel food system, which not only pollutes ecosystems but is a huge driver of climate change. 
 
The Soil Not Oil Coalition’s call for integrated action to restore global soil quality is one of the key things we must do to ensure a safe and healthy world for generations to come. Here’s a little known fact: Just the first meter of soil contains as much carbon as the entire atmosphere, and there’s potential to soak up much more.
 
For more information on this event, please contact Margie.
 
See you at F&C,
 
Camilla Becket
Jim Becket
Jim Whitney

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 Vandana Rust Sari 5
 
Vandana Shiva will be in Ojai next week to headline our annual Earth Day at Oak Grove School!
 
If you are in the area, we can’t encourage you enough to attend this event.
 
Oak Grove is situated on a breathtakingly beautiful campus. What better way to spend a gorgeous Spring day but in Ojai, surrounded by wildflowers, ancient oaks, birds, bees and butterflies and a friendly crowd of change-makers doing their part to rejuvenate Mother Earth?
 
Many local organizations will have displays of their work; there’ll be activities for kids, a whole lot of music and fresh, local food.
 
Earth Day starts at 11.00am.
Dr. Shiva will speak at 2.30pm. Book Signing afterwards.
VANDANA SHIVA IN OJAI
 
Want to avoid parking snarl? The Ojai Trolley will be running for free that day so why not park your car near a trolley stop and be delivered to Earth Day in style? Better yet, ride your bike to campus. Oak Grove’s bike valet will take care of it for you and give you a free raffle ticket for a $3,000 value draw!
 
Vandana will also be at Pacifica Graduate Institute’s conference Climate of Change and the Therapy of Ideas while in the area (April 24) and at Soka University for Critical Conversations: The Future of the Planet on April 26.
 
We’ll be filming and taking notes at these events and will send you a brand new update about The Seeds of Vandana Shiva in a few weeks. Watch this space!

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We arrived to a Paris locked down and traumatized by the November 13 terror attacks. Tear gas still in the air from an illegal climate march. Draconian emergency measures banning any gathering of more than two persons with a “political message.”
 
And yet, ten days later at the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, we filmed tens of thousands who took to the streets in joyful demonstration for a commitment to climate action. The energy was electric. The police stood aside. Despite the State of Emergency, activists in Paris found a way to be heard. 
  
On that same day, December 12, 196 countries agreed to take steps to arrest the build up of greenhouse gasses disrupting the climate and causing extraordinary natural disasters.
 
Post-analysis puts the voluntary agreement somewhere between “a turning point in human history” and “too little too late.” At best there is greater hope that governments will stand up to polluting corporations and legislate measures to combat climate chaos.
 

Of course Vandana Shiva was front and center of the activities–giving speeches, meeting with government ministers, speaking at press conferences, fielding numerous interviews and even helping to plant an organic “garden of hope” in the city.

 
Here she is arriving at The Rights of Nature Tribunal, one of numerous powerful and packed-to-capacity gatherings she addressed on her back-to-back schedule in Paris.
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The doormat says The Solution is Under our Feet–a great piece of guerrilla art designed by Kiss The Ground, part of our Regeneration International crew, who also arranged to have the words The Soil Story beamed from the Eiffel Tower.

For the first time, at COP21, soil and agriculture was on everyone’s lips and food systems were acknowledged to be factors in climate change.
But just like Big Tobacco and Oil, Big Ag and Big Food are denying the extent of their culpability while proposing false solutions offering more of the same: seed patenting, loss of biodiversity, genetic engineering, toxic chemical inputs, expensive technologies, displacement of farmers and corporate control of our food supply.

Thankfully, in Paris Vandana and the team from Regeneration International clearly articulated their message of hope. Without resource heavy technologies, organic and fair traded food systems can sequester carbon out of the atmosphere and return it to the soil where it belongs.

Our video about her Navdanya farm and university, Welcome to Bija Vidyapeeth was screened at the  It’s Possible Forum at La Villette where she appeared with Rob Hopkins of the Transition Network and Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. This event centered on the change-making possibility of people power, an idea both celebrated and executed in Paris.

 
As Vandana made clear at the Forum, we can transition away from degenerative and predatory economies. It is not only imperative but also possible for we in the West do well with less.
 
In fact, regenerative gatherings against degenerative systems were numerous and happening all over Paris.

One particularly important event was the press conference held on December 3rd announcing an International Monsanto Tribunal scheduled for October 2016 in The Hague. Another was the Pathways to Paris Concert with Patti Smith, Flea, Thom Yorke, Tenzin Choegyal, Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibbon and Naomi Klein.

Now we are home and back to editing.

With all the filming done for this project, our equipment has taken a beating. Two of our cameras failed on this trip. First thing in the new year we hope to repair them while also preparing for post production. That means fundraising. However, by making a tax-deductible donation to this project right now, you could put your 2015 tax dollars to use. Thank you in advance for your support!

All the rewards still apply, including a free and early link to the film.
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We’re zipping our bags and heading for Paris.
 
This trip we will be filming Vandana and others during various events at the much anticipated U.N. Climate Conference, COP21.
 
You will likely know by now that the large peoples’ marches—which would have drawn tens of thousands calling for action on climate change–have been banned following the November 13 attacks. This is a tragic set back for those who face the worst impacts of climate chaos yet are barely represented in the official negotiations. Their voices are usually best heard in the streets.
 
French authorities have arrested several climate activists under an emergency ruling against meetings of more than two people promoting a “political message.” But holiday shopping and sports games can go on.
 
None of this is stopping numerous activities happening outside of the official talks. And while our world leaders focus–as usual–on emissions reductions and market solutions, we’ll be with a contingent of organizations bringing to Paris a message of hope.
 
Here it is: The solution to global warming lies under our feet. Properly managed, healthy soils can cool the planet and feed the world. 
 
We need to transition away from industrial agricultural practices–that contribute almost half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions–to ecological practices that regenerate the soil’s capacity to take in excess carbon and produce healthy food.
 
Here’s a brilliant video produced by the Center for Food Safety that makes the point clear.
 
 
 
The choice between agro-ecology and agro-industry–at the heart of a growing global movement including Vandana’s work–is absolutely key to the issue of climate change.
 
Food systems also play a significant part in human rights, social disruption and war.
 
In 1984, Vandana was awakened to the high human cost of industrial agriculture when 30,000 people lost their lives in the Punjab, one of India’s most fertile states. Sent to study the roots of the conflict by United Nations University, she discovered the following: Though the Green Revolution was sold to India as a means to prosperity, the new agriculture actually created a cycle of debt. First, chemical agriculture depleted soil fertility and overused water. Second, with increasing amounts of expensive inputs required–fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides–food production shifted into the hands of industrialists. Punjab’s small farmers were pushed off their land into poverty. 
 
As desperate farmers became increasingly squeezed, they rose up in protest. The government responded by sending the army into a sacred Sikh temple. Soon afterwards, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed. And so the tragic cycle of violence began.
 
In Syria, a massive drought between 2006 and 2009–powered by climate change–was compounded by similarly misguided agricultural policies. This contributed to the crisis of displacement and terror playing out now.

In Paris, not only will we be filming with The Seeds of Vandana Shiva in mind, we’ll also be helping the team at Regeneration International with their powerful message. We should add they are generously supporting our trip.
 
Back home, our editors will be completing the first cut of Dr. Shiva’s life story of activism!

We’ll send an update when we return from Paris in a few weeks. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook and Twitter where we will be posting news when we can!
 
Follow social media updates from Seed Freedom and Regeneration International too. And if you are moved to post about the intersection between our food choices and climate change, and even war, feel free to use the following hashtags: #RegenerativeAg #SoilNotOil #SeedsOfVandana #COP21.
 
P.S: Cinematographer Loreto di Cesare took the pic on our banner. He filmed with us in at Navdanya in 2014 and just completed a new doc himself, featuring Vandana. Revolution: Food. Check it out!

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We have returned from our trip to India and are sorting through what we filmed.

We’re excited to do so, but first we want to report on our journey and let you know what we learned. Especially because today is World Food Day.

Every October 16 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations spearheads outreach and actions to eradicate hunger. This year’s theme, intersecting with the International Year of the Soil is “Social Protection and Agriculture.”

Not surprisingly, the inextricable link between soil, food systems and social justice was also a theme of our visit to India. On a Soil Pilgrimage led by Vandana Shiva (Navdanya), Ronnie Cummins (Organic Consumers Association), Andre Leu (IFOAM-International) and Will Allen (Sustainable Cotton Project), we filmed events with organic farmers, scientists and activists; at farms in the heart of the Bt cotton suicide belt; at Gandhi’s ashram on his birthday (a national holiday in India where the assembled pledged to make peace with the soil); and at Indore, where Sir Albert Howard (a founding father of the organic movement) learned organic methods from local Indian farmers and established a pioneering soil research lab.

One thing is clear: Healthy soil supports healthy crops, healthy farms, healthy consumers and healthy economies. It is also a solution to climate change.Why? Because the living soil draws carbon out of the atmosphere and sequesters it underground where it fuels food production.

Conversely, industrial agriculture disrupts the natural carbon cycle and actually depletes soil, along with its ability to sequester carbon. Worse, the industrial food system is responsible for more than 40% of climate disrupting carbon emissions.

Armed with solid research into the science of agriculture an exciting new project, Regeneration International, formed by Dr. Shiva and others also launches today. They are in Washington DC for an International Press Conference to promote regenerative agriculture as a solution to climate change.

Look down: The answer to hunger, poverty, ecological devastation and climate change is right under our feet.

With that thought in mind, we continue to edit our footage, including new interviews with Vandana’s son, sister, teachers, friends, her original publisher, Ronnie Cummins, Will Allen, Andre Leu and six inspiring young “seeds” of Vandana Shiva–farmers, artists, scientists and activists intent on regenerating a better world for us all.

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Agroecology Climate Change Earth Democracy Gandhi India Industrial Agribusiness Monsanto Navdanya Organic Regeneration International Vandana Shiva World Food Day Year of the Soil

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WITH YOUR SUPPORT WE MADE OUR GOAL. Yes! We leave for India on Sunday, where we will begin by interviewing Vandana’s childhood friends, teachers, and son.
We will also visit Gandhi’s Ashram and film gatherings of organic farmers atNavdanya and Indore (in Central India) where many say the modern organic movement began.
The story of the organic movement as we know it today has deep roots in India and actually features an Englishman. In 1905 an agricultural developer named Albert Howard–from Shropshire–was dispatched to the colony to teach Indian farmers how they should farm.
Instead, this Western scientist discovered that the indigenous farmers could teach him far more: He went on to famously document the benefits of organic agriculture for the Rodale Institute and other organizations, and is well known for stating that “the health of soil, plant, animal and man is indivisible.”
Howard advocated for agroecology long before the advent of GMOs and the corporate control of our food systems.
Today Indore is a center of food culture in India. With Dr. Shiva we’ll visit organic farmer’s markets, including the Sarafa Bazaar, a night market famous for its vegetarian street food.
Edible treats not withstanding, we see excellent footage ahead.
Thanks to our donors and Kickstarter backers, in Delhi we’ll film at the Bhoomi Festival, source archival material, and look for an artist to help us with animation and graphics:
Here’s a picture of the Hindu Goddess Durga in the Madhubani style of Indian art. Durga is the embodiment of the warrior woman: She tears down demons and difficulties to build anew. Many describe Vandana as a manifestation of Durga…an idea we explore with her in the film.

 The Kickstarter campaign ends this Saturday, September 19 and you can still pledge. Every dollar over and above our initial goal will go directly into the project and we have a wish list! You could be rewarded with any one of the following, which all make great gifts.

And more! See our Kickstarter page for other rewards.
In the meantime, we’re excited to be able to get back to the film. We’ll send out rewards as soon as we return!

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By the time you read this, we will be on the road to Northern California, where we’ll be attending two big events in support of The Seeds of Vandana Shiva.
We’ve already passed $20K with 16 days to go of our Kickstarter campaign. $10K more to raise–we think we can do it! A gentle reminder: We don’t get a penny unless we reach our goal. If you want to help us share the story of Vandana’s extraordinary journey to prominence, please pledge here now.
In fact on our Kickstarter page you will see that we’ve posted brand new rewards: Seed Savers Exchange has put up a full-fledged membership with extra benefits and The Omega Institute is offering registration (with meals and private accommodations) for their Seeds of Change Conference in mid October. Yes, Dr. Shiva will be there as well.
The moral support we continue to receive for The Seeds of Vandana Shiva has completely inspired us and we’re more than ready to get back to the film. And while we don’t want to short-change the priceless assistance of our brothers-in-arms throughout this campaign, it seems that the project resonates particularly strongly with women.
By way of example, last week this popular post on our Facebook page was shared widely and reached more than 43 thousand people.
The Organic Consumers Association posted about the project on Facebook this morning and instantly racked up more than 2,000 “likes.” We’re looking forward to meeting Director Ronnie Cummins at the Heirloom Seed Expo next week. If we reach our Kickstarter goal, we’ll be filming him with Vandana and other eco-activists on their Pilgrimage of the Soil in India soon.
 
But first we’ll be at the Soil not Oil Conference in Richmond, where we’ll screen our promotional reel before Dr. Shiva’s Keynote Address: Here’s the poster, which you can click through for more information.

 

We’ll be back to news about filmmaking soon!

 

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