Kathryn Gilje

Kathryn Gilje

Soil, science & fortitude :: Notes of gratitude

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.

A shout-out to soil

I reveal my prairie and agronomic roots with what comes to mind first, the interconnected and regenerative community in what’s commonly known as dirt. More than six billion microorganisms live in a pinch of soil, and it carries the nutrients and structure needed to grow food. This dirt all around us is tired. The scrappy dust around my own home carries heavy metals, persistent toxins. And yet it has mindboggling capacity to regenerate and support life again and again. It will come back. Slowly, yes (it takes 500 years to build one inch of topsoil!), but it will be back. Healthy, thriving soil is the living substrate for all healthy food, carbon-eating forests and our homes. Above all, soil thrills me because it’s easy to connect with its power. Go outside, put a hand to the ground. Or imagine the thriving community under all that concrete. What fortitude.

PAN seeks a shift to practices that build and nourish soil through changes in state, federal and international policy. In 2011, expect us engaged at the intersection of climate change and agriculture, pushing for small, agroecological farms as a climate solution. Around the world. And we will bring you into the Farm Bill, seeking good food for all, and support for ecologically-minded farmers.

To caretakers of creation

Soil reminds me very quickly of all the people that work every day to make healthy, safe, good food available to everyone. People like Jim Cochran and everyone at Swanton Berry Farm, where organic strawberries are grown under a United Farm Workers contract – good and fair food, both. People like Ramiro Medrano in Pajaro, California, working to prevent his family, children and community from being exposed to pesticides being applied in fields right across the street. Elana Amsterdam, building community while talking gluten-free cupcakes and how to fix a broken food system. Andrea Carmen, and colleagues at Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the International Indian Treaty Council, who work to end the use of persistent and toxic chemicals that build up in the Arctic, contaminating traditional food and people there, and leaving a toxic legacy in all of our bodies. Tom Theobold, beekeeper and community leader, signaling the bees as the canary in this particular coal mine. All of these people, and so many more, waking up each morning and creating a new world that nourishes and demands fairness.

PAN will continue to listen to the wisdom of these practitioners, and be active on ending reliance on toxics like persistent organic pollutants (POPs) everywhere. This past year, you helped us win a ban on the POP pesticide endosulfan in the U.S. In 2011, we’ll seek an end to its use worldwide through its listing under the Stockholm Convention. We’ll continue to push for cancer–free and safe strawberries in California, refusing to be silent as the chemical industry attempts to push a new pesticide, methyl iodide, into our fields.

To conviction and its companions, agitation and persistence

Accomplishing PAN’s mission requires the discomfort that comes from acting with honest conviction. I am thrilled with the agitation from our partners and supporters to constantly deepen our struggle, and with the people who have worked together across years to make constant and steady progress. Groups like Farmworker Association of Florida, Farm Worker Pesticide Project in Washington and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation are enduring PAN partners working for the day that farmworkers won’t have to choose between their health and their job, and when dignity comes to the fields. PAN will work in 2011 toward marketplace shifts that reward fair and ecologically-sound farming practices. And we will remain supportive of farmworker partners in pursuit of immigration policy reform.

Persistence is required to pursue the root causes of food system dysfunction. PAN is just back from DC calling for an end to corporate control of food and agriculture, and for a crack-down on Monsanto in particular. Many of you took action – and the campaign is gaining momentum. We will keep on the Department of Justice to, in the words of our farmer allies, “Bust Up Big Ag!”

To courageous scientists

This year was unprecedented for the ways that scientists came together to expose the havoc that pesticides and toxic chemicals are wreaking on our health and our planet. From the physicians of the President's Cancer Panel who delivered a wake-up call to the Obama administration that environmental carcinogens truly do cause cancer; to the scientists who served on the official review panel for methyl iodide. To scientists like Tyrone Hayes, a biologist willing to stand up to the agrichemical giant Syngenta with evidence of atrazine harm. To Sandra Steingraber, a powerful translator of her life story into book and film who traveled with us to Illinois and San Francisco to bring her message home. Scientists who are compelled by what they know to speak out and take action, despite all of the pushback and harassment that they are afforded for doing so.

PAN will continue to deliver grassroots science, and will take up campaigns informed by our findings. We'll continue to push for transparency and truth when it comes to the science related to atrazine, and will call for a plan of action to support farmers' transition off of Syngenta's dirty chemical.

Thank you for being part of PAN’s community, and for giving of yourself to create the world we seek to become together.

And now – onward! Join PAN.

Kathryn Gilje
Kathryn Gilje, Executive Director

Kathryn Gilje

Kathryn Gilje

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