The world can certainly do better than this. Here's why.

Saturday, June 28


At the outset, I ought to give my reasons for holding suspect any that deny global warming is both caused by humans and is a great threat to all life on Earth. In the broadest of terms, an outline of my objections. More details will be made clear in analyzing the film.

First, no natural system, alone, can account for the rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is put forward in the film that the massive increase of atmospheric CO2 is the result of oceanic release and other such natural sources. Certainly, the amount of atmospheric CO2 has drastically increased with the release of gases trapped beneath the melting polar ice caps. These “natural” carbon sources are, however, affected by the actions of humans. Humans have simultaneously amplified the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and undercut natural carbon sinks, ensuring that once the CO2 is in the atmosphere is there, it stays there. By upsetting a natural balance, no matter how small a “drop in the ocean” it appears, the record shows that this period of history is different than any other. This is the greatest aspect supporting anthropogenic global warming.

Second, humanity has never before been so widespread, nor as large a population on the face of the earth. Warming is melting the polar ice sheets and is causing a change in ocean levels. Any shift in ocean levels will have a catastrophic effect on low-lying areas and the people living there. Those who cannot move and do not have the economic or technological capacity to build dikes or levees to hold back the flood will suffer. The United Nations Security Council, among other world government and non-government bodies, has both reported on and resolved to address security issues surrounding climate change. Security issues range from environmental refugees to natural disaster response to changes in food harvest quantities. Further, conflicts arising from displaced populations, destroyed infrastructure, and shrinking food supply for a growing population must also be addressed.

Any change in global temperature will produce a consequent change in insect and animal populations. Bacteria and viruses that move with these vectors will also shift. Consequently, any who cannot afford extermination of the animals or vaccination against the diseases, will suffer immensely and in unpredictable ways. Never before have diseases been induced to be so resilient and survivable in the face of modern medicine. To add to the mix environmental resilience is to elevate any threat posed by these organisms, ranging from nuisance to deadly.

Third, living systems thrive on internal stability. The biological principle is called homeostasis. It follows, then, that aggregates of living systems thrive best in an internally stable system. Further, because of its sheer size, the worldwide aggregate of living systems is much more tightly balanced and does not undergo radical shifts. It wasn't until well into the industrial age that this global aggregate of living systems was called the biosphere.

Now, as it has ever been termed, it’s "our world." The biosphere is seen to be undergoing a radical shift, the increase of atmospheric CO2 coupled to warming, the stability once enjoyed by all life is spinning away. Our world can be exploited in any way, shape, or form we choose as long as we own it. The problem is, we, humans, don't own the world, we share it with everything else that happens to live or exist here and only here. As such, the human capacity to manipulate the world must be guided very carefully.

The present scenario, coupling warming to CO2 level increase is not mentioned in the film. Instead, the film mentions an eight hundred year lag between cause, warming, and effect, increased CO2. It does not address the logical conclusion, whatever increase in atmospheric CO2 we experience now as a product of the last warming, eight hundred years from now we can expect another spike.

This film addresses the climate change with the same sense of immediacy that justifies violence: the ends justify the means. It applies the false rationale that we can put off the concerns of the future for gains now. Burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is not really that bad because we can do more with the present systems in place. Warmer climate, in past examples, is a signpost of prosperity – at least in the parts of the world that matter. Traditional economic and industrial development are the high-held ideals for the underprivileged nations of Africa, but parts of the world such as South Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central and South America – those most likely to suffer – go unaddressed.

People talk about their concerns. This film argues that environmentalism is so "politically-charged" that it overarches all other considerations. This is a straw-man argument, at best. It sets up environmental concerns as valueless and the attacks the value of discussing the environment. Further, it casts the establishment – the top 20% in the global economy – as victims. It virtually denies that the side opposite, the side that disbelieves or actively discredits anthropogenic climate change is represented at all in the media.

I'm confused. General Electric is the world's most powerful company and is, itself, a multimedia empire without peer. Energy corporations advertise with, and hold stock in, every major media outlet in the world. These corporations hold massive influence over the messages that media outlets relate to the public. It is this way that popular public opinion is shaped. If environmentalism is, as the film asserts, simply a political hot-potato utilized to win elections and public support; if scientists have been, as the film asserts, lying for financial gain; why continue the charade? Does it still make sense to be very, very concerned about climate change?

True things ring true. The unexamined life is not worth living. The environment is where all things live and struggle for life. We live in an age of air quality and ground-level ozone measurements, smog, and associated health disorders. Pollutants other than carbon dioxide being injected into the environment must be looked at. Human food production is an industrial enterprise and the environment bears the impact of feeding 6.7 billion people daily. Failing crops and soil depletion must be considered. Food, resources, and other products are transported all across the world at great environmental impact. Wars are fought for resources and, soon, food scarcity might be cause for war. The wars that are fought over control for the world's resources, whether fought on desert sands or in corporate boardrooms or in houses of national assembly, must be observed endlessly. Explosives and logistics of warfare exact both an environmental and human toll. It must be debated. Therefore, the environment, for better or for worse, will always be a political issue.

This film attacks the veracity of environmental science and, consequently, the veracity of the environmental movement for political change. The film supports the current global environmental policy – plunder at will. Use, exploit, cheat, deny, and sell for profit. As a policy, there is no room for growth or change. Most notably, there is no room for responsibility. To accept, to any degree, that human activity has any impact on the environment is repugnant to the policy in place. This film lends weak justification to this policy.

Monday, June 23


Once, the notion of an impeachment of President George W. Bush was coupled to the assertion, “we just don’t like you very much.” It was like a schoolyard popularity contest or, in a more contemporary context, a reality-TV show, “voted-off-the island” exercise. Mistakes, missteps, or misspoken moments clustered like clouds, dogging a young Administration. Even in the wake of national tragedy and national emergencies, forever tied to two elections of questionable veracity, the leadership of the chief executive of the United States and his enclave of advisers clung to, and was shored up by, unrepentant nationalism for strength. Impeachment, regardless of the transgression or crime, was not to be considered. It would, in fact, be treasonous and Anti-American to consider it at “such a time” and it is not to be considered. Now, seven years later, impeachment isn’t about popularity any longer.

In the light of the awesome power wielded by the executive branch of government at present, impeachment could be seen as a vestige of a by-gone form of democracy. The legal team that has produced such hits as circumvention of the Geneva conventions and the co-option of the justice department, certainly they could find some means to have the President veto his own impeachment – should it come to pass. Perhaps, with some sub-Herculean effort and using the precedent of emergency established by Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, the Bush Administration could force a third term.

Impeachment, this late into his second term would also be deemed useless or token in application. As unpopular as the notion was from 2001 to 2004, when his approval ratings were much higher than they are in 2008, the inertia and punditry of the last four years have kept the notion of impeachment unpopular. A great deal of damage has been done to the prestige of the office under the watch of this Administration and, damage having been done, the removal of Bush from office by impeachment could be called many things; spiteful, desperate, vindictive, or a simple exercise in futility. Bi-partisan support will be difficult to achieve as so many politicians rely one on the other for their political careers. Taking a shot at the chief could be political suicide. Fortunately, America -- unlike Zimbabwe -- is a place where political life and life itself are not inextricably linked. Or is it?

The unpopularity of impeachment proceedings in the Congress and the Senate, regardless of the fact that they are elected representatives of the people’s will, is partially because it is they who must undertake this particularly arduous task. All politicians, all of their connections and interconnections in a particularly dark chapter of American history, could be laid bare in this search for “truth.” Every decision and vote subjected to scrutiny, every statement and communication to be filtered. The first six years of the Administration, under examination, would belie the sickness in modern American government. It would relate the degree of control asserted by the White House and over autonomous entities such as the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and – before November 2006 – Congress. How deep did the hooks sink? How tight were the screws? Since all politics is a continuum, selfish interests could pollute the impeachment process. Thus, the exercise would be long, drawn-out and, in the end, would signify nothing without zealous pursuit of the elusive “truth.” In this light, an impeachment will achieve nothing that “running out the clock” will not achieve on its own.


Things, for some, have changed. The passage of time under the Administration has uncovered more of the ills done to, and in the name of, America. With this knowledge, and in the light that there are a great many things the Administration sought to keep secret, a call – courageously – has been raised for the decision-makers to account and take responsibility for their actions.

An age of twenty-four hour news stations and reality TV shows makes public awareness susceptible to only the punchiest of events. Nuanced discussion, complete information, and rational discussion were once the domain of politics and journalism. Now, screaming fanatics of all stripes dominate the discussion. Sound bites guide the opinions of the body politic. It is now, with change clearly at the forefront of all discussions, that the flow of information must become clearer, more nuanced, and, above all, complete. With the fate of the longest democratic experiment in history in the balance, the fate of “a government by the people, of the people, and for the people,” an informed people must be at its core; not the current nation of children, overworked and underpaid and scared to death, protected by Big Brother. Calling Big Brother to account, to hold him responsible for what he does in the name of the country, runs counter to the zeitgeist.

What is to be achieved in proceeding with impeachment?

The thirty-five articles of impeachment sent to committee by Dennis Kucinich outline the most grievous errors and miscarriages of executive power, arguably, in American history. Calling the President to account for the actions of he and his advisors for these actions is the first key achievement of the impeachment proceeding.

To date, the Bush Administration and President George W. Bush, himself, have avoided or deflected all accountability in any of the questionable goings-on of the present government. Most notably, faulty intelligence on weapons-of-mass-destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, led the propaganda campaign against, criminal invasion of, war of aggression against, and occupation of Iraq. Linked, the identity leak of Valerie Plame and perjury indictment, conviction, and Presidential grant of clemency for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Also linked are exercises of extraordinary rendition, illegal detention, and torture at prisons – both public and secret – under the auspice of a permanent emergency. Further are charges of surveillance on American citizens, suspension of constitutional freedoms, enactment of secret laws, and reckless endangerment of human lives in New York, New Orleans, and all civilians Afghanistan and Iraq. For all of this, the leaders of America must account.

Secondly, the response to these charges must be open to the public. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people cannot continue to operate in hall of mirrors in a shroud of secrecy. The cries of “national security” and “executive privilege” do not trump the call to account of the people who installed these people in power. Arguably, men and women the likes of George W. Bush, Richard B. Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice are not elected to power. They are powerful and, as a result, are candidates for higher offices. The assumption of public office carries a heavy responsibility, accountability to the public. It is this central tenet of representative democracy that is most clearly forgotten by the Bush Administration. An impeachment proceeding can reassert, definitively, that it is the people form the government and not the government that shapes the people.

Thirdly, the actions of the Bush Administration as captured in the lens of history cannot go uncontested by an American notion of justice. It is of great disservice to American history and American identity to have these actions pass unexamined through the corridors of history and the halls of justice. Investigations into the Valerie Plame affair have been stunted for four years. An investigation into the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys has been blocked for two years. Investigations into the interference with the duties of Environmental Protection Agency are presently being blocked. Investigations of torture practices have been underway since Alberto Gonzales’s January 2002 memo suggested America “opt-out” of the Geneva Conventions.

Repeatedly, President Bush and his lieutenants have related, “history will judge” the actions of this Administration “favorably.” This sentiment, recorded for all history, is held within the enclave of power. Others rarely have an historic say. Ask the mothers, fathers, and families of all the dead, wounded, or suicidal Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Ask the populations of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon about the destabilizing force that the occupations have caused. While the actions of “insurgents” or “extremists” dominate the discourse, the voiceless hold no sway. The bigger the lie, the more it must be repeated to be believed and to hold amid the tide history.

People the world over question the foreign policies of the American government as, one way or the other; America addresses the world by this foreign policy. In the eyes of the global community, and in the light the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, what won’t America do to secure “national security” interests? All of the decisions stem from guidance of the people at the top of the chain of command. As a result, to examine the decisions made, closely and publicly, can only serve to reassure the world that there is an internal check on a virtually limitless power.

All too often, this shock and awe of limitless power applied reaches past its targets and into the lives of those it purports to protect and serve. Collateral damage and friendly fire are the common terms applied. In the contemporary frame, particularly in Iraq, a third term is becoming commonplace, contract collateral damage or contract friendly fire. Fortunately for the contractors in Iraq, they are granted immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law and are not subject to oversight by American law. It is left to the contract company to sort out the details and, if need be, punish an offender. The havoc inflicted by security contractors – properly, merchants of death – affects the relations between occupiers and subjects of occupation. Subcontracting “security,” a blurry line between a private business enterprise and a military enterprise in Iraq, is wholly endorsed by the Administration and is given tacit approval in the application American foreign policy. In the eyes of those subject to this “thug life” approach to foreign relations, private business interests have supplanted America’s armed forces and America’s armed forces have supplanted diplomacy. It is for the sake of these many eyes, the subjects at the point of a mighty sword, that America must reassert control. This, now, can be achieved only in impeachment. Calling to account, under the law, the actions of those most responsible is the only recourse of a desperate time.

In other nations, at other desperate times, when powerful people have been called to account for their actions, the cases have been remanded to the responsibility of special tribunals such as the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice. Those thinking themselves above the law, those who engaged in heinous actions – war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of aggression or genocide – can be so remanded. What, then, of Iraq? A war, arguably a war of aggression, was manufactured under false pretense. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died violently as a direct result of the invasion and occupation. Torture, secret prisons, and war crimes have all resulted as a direct result of decisions made at the top. The application of impeachment proceedings against those responsible for these decisions and their consequences is a viable means of addressing these offenses. Certainly, the International Criminal Court will never assume jurisdiction, as the United States one of only seven nations that declined to be signatory to the Rome Statute.

Even amid the nationalistic fervor of the early years of his Presidency, questions about Bush’s ability to lead the nation within the bounds of his office surfaced. The power of the Republican party and its friends in corporate and finance circles quelled the dissent and, instead, focused on the march to war in Iraq. Impeachment, Cassandrically advocated by Ramsay Clark in January 2003 invoking the shades of things to come, can examine the workings of the dark corners of the Administration. Now, as the scale of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” of this Administration are being brought to light, some measure of justice must be applied.

Even now as a war on Terror appears to be less and less in the interest of “national security” and more in the interest of profit security, decisions made in the Oval Office and in the tight circle about it march the nation toward its fourth armed conflict in seven years. Following Afghanistan, Iraq, and material support for the 2006 violence in Lebanon, Iran appears to fertile ground for military diplomacy. At any time the bi-directional sabre-rattling could prove a powder keg.

For all of this, even if President George W. Bush, Vice-President Richard B. Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were to be impeached in the period between today and the 2008 general election on November 6, or in the period between the election and inauguration day 20 January 2009, it will reaffirm that the function of Congress as a check and balance of the American government is firmly in place. Even if none of these people are found guilty for their actions, the democratic action will, at the very least, have been undertaken and the light of truth shone in the darkest of corners. This, at the very least, for the sake of a honest history.

The exercise of impeachment is far from futile. It is an exercise of a democracy. It is a search for truth. For all the mentions of “blowback,” a disconnection of cause and effect, it is certainly time that an exercise of justice be blown back to the secret keepers and the untouchables.

Tuesday, June 17



Inspired by an article that reflects on the works of two authors who -- independently -- assert that contemporary capitalism is the source of many of the world's woes and ills, I'm struck by a certain inconsistency of argument.

While I agree with this:

"Speth calls for a rejection of the necessity of constant economic growth - a central tenet of capitalism. He calls, instead, for policies that 'strengthen families and communities,' 'measures that guarantee good, well-paying jobs,' 'measures that give us more time for leisure, informal education, the arts, music, drama, sports, hobbies, volunteering, community work, outdoor work ...,' 'measures that give everyone a good education,' and more. (p. 145)"

and this:

"He rejects 'consumerism and commercialism.' Instead, 'Confront consumerism. Practice sufficiency. Work less. Reclaim your time -- it's all you have. Turn off technology. Join No Shopping Day. Buy nothing! Simplify your life. Shed possessions.'(p. 163)"

I disagree with this single term: "'Downshift.'"


When I think of a car -- an apt metaphor and symbol of capitalism, consumerism, economy, and all the rest -- and down-shifting, I think of waste. The car as slows in speed, it burns much more fuel and wastes much more of its energy. A downshift slows the vehicle as it strains to maintain speed in a lower gear. It is for these reasons that politicians and economists, with all the power and authority they wield, warn against any shift away from constant economic growth or away from a fossil-fuel based economy. A downshift undoes what has been done, it reverses progress.

Think of the necessary shift in capitalism and general human conduct as an upshift. By engaging a whole new range of thoughts, conducts, practices, and all the rest, humanity can travel along at a much faster speed on the same energy spent. Truly, it is humanity at a lower gear ratio. For many reasons, as people -- now captives of an antiquate and dying economy -- adjust to any shift made, some of what we now take for granted will fade. Some things such as immediacy -- the instantaneous satisfaction of modern-world desire. Some things such as novelty products -- the "fad" factor that feeds so many empty desires and so, too, the economy. Some things such as convenience -- the 5 000 km salad and the winter pineapple in Canada will become less possible. Essentially, from shining brilliance of our white-hot "enlightenment," the endeavours of human societies will turn to rely on less energy and require it to do more. Here, there is the possibility for real growth, renewal, and rejuvenation.

To date, humanity assumes the undertaking of many shifts over time. From the stone age to the ages of metals such as bronze and iron, from small communities to large nations and international associations, from subsistence growth and local production to factory-farming and industrial mass-production. For all of these shifts, humanity has made only one great shift -- from existence subject to nature, to command over it. The necessary shift, now, is to make the most of what is left; to make the most of what humanity has attained as a species; what humans have experienced, learned, exploited, and become. The next shift must be from command and conquer to symbiosis. It is this shift that everything humans have ever uncovered about the natural world and the universe beyond must achieve.

In order to remain relevant in this universe, in order to merely survive against the abundantly obvious human trait of self-destruction, humans must overcome our own hubris. Humans are no longer a large gear at the center of a small system, but a tiny gear of fleeting existence in a virtually infinite system.

An upshift utilizes the inertia of the moving object, a vast swell of kinetic [moving] energy, and applies it to a more efficient gear. The same energy applied achieves more work in less time. There is the threat, that this upshift could stall the vehicle of human endeavour. Misunderstanding, resistance, and rejection are all possible forestalling factors. Like any smooth shift of an automobile transmission, the transition from one gear to the next must be gradual and controlled by a clutch. The clutch, the go-between of two spinning entities, is essential to prevent a fatal stall. In the human world, the clutch is free and open communication of ideas. It is for this reason that the upshift is one mediated by information. The more information is made freely available, and the more information is shared, the easier it is to maintain inertia and effect a smooth transition. Here, too, the current model of economics and policy fails. It thrives on secrecy and the control of information and opinion.

Humanity can NOT walk the current path. The path that renews old technologies such as "Clean Coal," reinvents contemporary technology such as is exhibited in Alberta's oilsands projects, or that reassures investors that $140 per barrel does not significantly effect the conduct of business as usual. The path that extracts non-renewable resources, processes them into non-biodegradable, novel chemical products, and redeposits them into landfill sites once used up. The path that binds global profitability closely to military contracts, government corruption, or the deception, coercion, or outright bullying of the general public and their opinions. The path that reinforces ignorance as virtue yet utilizes mass ignorance to benefit the few and the wealthy. This is the path that has led us to all our current crises.

Other problems yet remain in the human condition. A shift in the conduct of business and energy policy will not quench the human condition of its taste for conflict and confrontation. It will not guarantee gender or racial or socioeconomic equality the world over. It will, however, grant us the time to address these and other issues that sorely need addressing. Instead of worrying about how long the lights will stay on or how much we must work to pay for it, we can afford to discuss politics, human rights, and the plight of others. Instead of enduring occupations for the favor preoccupations, all people can reclaim the dignity of choosing for themselves.

Monsanto - Part II

Previously mentioned, the chemical giant Monsanto has created several varieties of genetically engineered -- transgenic -- crops and plans to introduce several if not dozens more that span all major cash crops. This is good business practice, as people will never stop having to be fed. Furthermore, the more of the market that Monsanto owns, the better a position it will be in to maximize its profits.

There are two significant mechanisms to consider. The first deals with the practices of Monsanto as a corporation. The second pertains to nature itself.

Monsanto must protect the profitability of its products. The company can't have people growing their transgenic crops without paying for them year in and year out. To control this, Monsanto requires farmers to sign a binding agreement against collecting seed -- seed that the plants naturally produce -- to secure and maximize annual sales. Of course the company can't be blamed, this is just good business practice. Monsanto, however takes the process a few steps farther.

In places such as India, Monsanto has bought up the majority of seed sellers to drive any possible competition out of existence, supplanting them with its own supply of seed at a significantly higher price. That there is so little natural seed further secures the capacity for Monsanto to maximize its market penetration.

The transgenic crops are, also, not guaranteed against diseases. When compared to non-transgene varieties, the Monsanto product is found to be susceptible to various kinds of plant cancers and infections. Cotton plants in India have been found to have a disease incidence rate notably higher than that measured in non-transgenic varieties. This may be the result of a misunderstanding of the manner in which the plant interacts with its environment, thus the transgene is doing more harm than good. Genetic engineering is, after all, only as smart as its engineers.

To further secure its bets against rivals, Monsanto has added nothing to its transgenic crops to prevent them from pollinating naturally-occurring varieties this tightening the grip of the Monsanto product and expanding its prevalence in all manners of growth. It is unclear whether or not Monsanto lays claim to crops pollinated and grown with their proprietary genes by accident. One thing is for certain, they do not lay claim to plants wherein natural mutations arise and shift the location of the transgenic strand of DNA producing monstrous results. Certainly, the crafty lawyers at Monsanto lay claim only to plants with an intact transgene and with the transgene in its engineered position.

The emergent properties of transgenic species remain under- or undocumented, as the capacity to engineer these species is new. Whether or not a spliced transgene will mutate to produce problematic traits is completely unknown and completely possible. Also possible, but much less likely, is the production of beneficent emergent qualities from mutations. This is less likely in transgenic, man-made, organisms because beneficent mutations themselves are rare. DNA alien to the organism that nature never saw fit to introduce is much more likely to create the conditions that are hallmark to other uncontrolled DNA insertions, most notably the inactivation or amplification of genes resulting in cancers. Organisms have usually developed the means to correct genetic errors, however, the insertion of a gene or genes from other species can supersede the cellular mechanism for such corrections.

Novel products, those that never existed before human ingenuity, have had a virtually perfect record of destructive environmental effects and persistence in the environment. This is a lesson that should have been learnt with petrochemistry. The pseudo-alchemy that is the petrochemicals industry has generated many things that have been warned against since antiquity as pursuits of magic. Should the chemists be burned at the stake as "wizards" the way witches were in days of old? Nope, they've got better lawyers, so we loyal subjects can't. Further, we must eat what they give us. This is in much the same manner that the petroleum and petrochemical industries tax generations not-yet-born with environmental sins of the present; non-biodegradable waste products, reliance on fossil-fuel energy, and pollution of the air, sea, and earth.

This is what will come of this situation, left unchecked: massive influence a corporate giant will buy up the rights to all crops. All farmers on all continents will have no option but to go to Monsanto for their seed. Seed collection, a practice from antiquity, from the beginning of agriculture itself, will be signed away as a quaint but unrealistic ideal given contemporary realities. RoundUp will never be made obsolete, as it is the institutional herbicide. The pollination process will spread transgenes into unexploited quarters. Monsanto will feed, thus control, the world.

Sounds unreasonable? Well, consider the current food shortage crises met by several countries, non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations Food Program. There is civil unrest in relatively stable countries because of rising food costs or simple food shortages. On the list of affected regions and countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Latin America, Mozambique, Pakistan, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Somalia, North America, and Yemen.

Men with guns are beginning to take control of what remains, as has been done with oil supplies. The dire consequences of floods in Iowa are reverberating on corn and soy markets the world over. Further, the impact of lost corn grown for the purposes of ethanol extraction affects the "green fuel" movement. Food is the next resource to be deemed a matter of "national security" by nations around the world. This leaves only the most basic resource, water. If the Cochabamba Protests in Bolivia are any indication, a move to privatize water will be met with the fiercest public opposition.

Corporations, hardly stewards of the public good, are being given the keys to the survival of humanity. Bechtel was ousted from Cochabamba in 2000 when their IMF-mandated water privatization scheme failed. A response to claiming exclusive rights to food, whether by genetic engineering and economic influences or by brute force as exampled in Myanmar and elsewhere, must be as vehement as that of the Bolivians. However, such a response will not be seen until the needs of the influential are not being met. For now, it is only the weakest, the poorest, and the invisible that lead the charge. It is they that see the problems, act against them, and suffer our indifferent ability to feed corporate coffers in buying temporary solutions.

Monsanto - Part I

*** This is a review of the documentary film, "The World According to Monsanto."

They are the death dealers.

Since 1901 Monsanto, an American chemical company, has sought to produce the most effective killing agents known to man. This sounds much more sinister than it is. Maybe.

Their flagship product, RoundUp is the most successful herbicide in the world. Herbicide means "kills plants." Remember that. Marketed as a weed killer, it will kill any plant it is applied to. Remember that, too. The longtime claim that it was the only biodegradable herbicide was, recently, dropped in a case of false advertising. Is this a sole instance of corporate falsehood? Perhaps.

Dioxin, created by Monsanto, is the active agent in the Vietnam war defoliant Agent Orange, produces a cascade of toxic effects in subjects exposed to it. These effects were not disclosed to the soldiers who were exposed to Agent Orange over the course of the war. Much less were the Vietnamese people upon whom 40 million litres of Agent Orange were dropped producing hideous birth defects, debilitating diseases, and cancers. Monsanto settled, out of court with the American servicemen it deemed afflicted, however, no such settlement was reached with the Republic of Vietnam.

Monsanto is also the chemical company that mass-produced polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, as a cooling agent. This substance, after almost 40 years of production, was outed as a massive toxin. The discovery that Monsanto had, for decades, buried massive amounts of PCBs near a small town in America, and that the state government had given the company permission to do so, shows the influence that a company can have over public policy and the welfare of people. But, with all of this influence, Monsanto must also produce positive results for people. Right?

Bovine growth hormone (or rBGH or Posilac) is injected to increase, by up to 20%, the milk yield of dairy cows. The world is, however, awash in milk. Of any farm product, milk is among the last that needs to be increased in yield. Monsanto has decided to cover up this fact, as well as the facts that active carcinogens and mast cells from over-milked cows ends up in the milk and, consequently, in people. Basically, the pus-infested milk can give you cancer. Monsanto actively blocked an investigative news report of this occurrence from airing in the US. Further, Monsanto had a hand in the dismissal of Health Canada officials that blew the whistle on rBGH. They protected the public welfare, as their job descriptions demand, but they lost their jobs. Who is protecting us now, Monsanto?

Monsanto, further evidence of their beneficence, has moved into the bioengineering of food itself. Genetically engineered crops of soy, corn, and cotton are already on the market. These proprietary crops, patented at the genetic level, are resistant to Monsanto's flagship herbicide. To repeat, these genetically engineered plants resist herbicide. What is not mentioned is the susceptibility of these transgenic crops to all manner of emergent disease that non-transgenic crops naturally fight off. That the crops are, currently, undergoing human trials in the general population is only a footnote to the successful implementation of multinational food policies by a multinational corporation.

In the end, and what the second part of this recap will look at, is the question: what does it mean when a corporation co-opts human populations capacity to decide? This is especially pertinent a question in considering that, as a matter of good fiscal conduct and proper business practice, Monsanto seeks to own the rights to produce every last gram of food on earth.