Yesterday, January 12th, I participated in Worldwatch Institute’s launch of its new report, State of the World 2011: Innovations to Nourish the Planet. The report presents a dazzling array of creative down-to-earth solutions from African farmers that can help solve the scourge of global hunger and poverty. I had the great pleasure of co-authoring the concluding chapter of this report.
We often look to scientific research on the hazards of agricultural chemicals to support our call to protect farmworkers and their families from pesticides—a call that all too frequently goes unheeded. But we don't give up, and I'm delighted to say, neither do the dedicated researchers upon whom we depend. Scientists at UC Berkeley recently released another round of solid data documenting the dramatic impacts pesticides can have on children's health.
Today it seems obvious that a woman's health directly impacts the well-being of her future child. Women thinking about becoming pregnant — or those who already are — are often careful not to smoke, drink or take certain drugs. Meanwhile, conventional wisdom says that a father's health can't have any direct impact on that of his child. But as described in the cover story of the January/February issue of Miller-McCune, conventional wisdom is wrong: Fathers do matter.
The media paid serious attention to pesticides last year. Three of PAN’s leading issues — atrazine in the Midwest, methyl iodide in California, and endosulfan everywhere — were among the “Top 10 Environmental Health Stories for 2010.” Editors of Environmental Health News selected the top stories from 68,000 newspaper and magazine articles, radio and TV broadcasts and online media coverage.
Judging by what's unfolded at the end of 2010 and these first few days of 2011, the PAN community is energized as never before to take on chemical company control of government and food. Record numbers of people like you joined PAN to take action (we're near 50,000 strong now and growing fast — that's up from 12,500 just 18 months ago!), and these first days of 2011 have been action packed. On Monday we announced a lawsuit against Arysta, the largest privately-held pesticide corporation in the world, and the state of California — both — over the cancer-causing strawberry pesticide methyl iodide. Alongside the lawsuit we delivered 52,000 requests to incoming Governor Brown urging him to reverse the state's decision to allow that chemical to be used in agriculture.
Avoiding soil erosion is essential to maintain crop productivity, protect waterways and avoid or slow desertification. In the U.S. and around the world government-sponsored programs have made great progress in mitigating topsoil loss: U.S. soil conservation practices reduced topsoil loss from 3.1 billion tons to 1.9 billion tons between 1982 and 1997, for instance. But the majority of this mitigation has come at a cost. To avoid soil distrubance and the erosion that goes with it, conventional U.S. farmers have relied on herbicide-intensive no-till, polluting waterways and destroying soil microbial life in the process.
The suffering caused by years of endosulfan use on cashew plantations in Kerala's Kasaragod district is well known: birth defects, high rates of mental retardation, and delayed puberty, in addition to the hundreds of deaths directly attributed to the antiquated insecticide. Now, the Indian press is reporting another cluster of endosulfan-induced disease a couple hundred miles away in Muthalamada district, also part of the state of Kerala.
This is a year-end post of gratitude for all of you who offer deep and sustaining nourishment to our world. Gratitude for soil, for the earth’s caretakers, for courageous scientists and persistent agitators. And it is an invitation to join this community at PAN. Because together, we get things done.
This time of year I find myself seeking out the places that remind me what is right with our world. Amidst global tragedy and hourly acts of injustice, our existence depends on connecting with those soul sisters and beings of all kinds who sustain and nourish us with their acts of profound grace and fortitude. One of the key reasons that I am honored and motivated to work with PAN is that I have the chance to meet these people each and every day. Via email, SMS texts, phone calls and evening conversations around kitchen tables, I am regularly reminded of the many people working for ecological sanity, for equity – acting out of profound love and possibility, rather than fear. People speaking truth at times and in places that are risky and deeply needed, both.
Doctors are rolling up their sleeves to search for the causes of autism. Dr. Philip Landrigan announced last week that he's rounding up a scientific posse to identify a "Most Wanted Chemicals" list based on the latest information linking environmental contaminants to Autism Spectrum Disorder. It's high time.
One of the differences between last year’s heavily policed climate meetings in Copenhagen and this year’s meetings in Cancun was that you could actually sneak in and out of the official UNFCCC venue. And so I did. Curious to see how it is that government ministers from all over the world manage to so consistently fail to represent the best interests of their peoples, I snuck in and out of several of the side events that were taking place in this expensive island resort.