Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rice Is Life, Stopping Genetically Modified Rice

I'm just back from another great meeting in the Philippines, this time with Masipag, one of the main NGOs that work on farming issues in Asia.

Masipag is highly critical of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and has pointed out that it is increasingly becoming a "for-profit" body in spite of its original mandate. Masipag wants rice farmers to have control over their many varieties, be it white, red, yellow, brown or black rice, and all the other amazing kinds of rice that rural farmers have been saving and enjoying over centuries.

"Rice is life" is a rallying call, and you could translate that as, "Don't mess with our rice."

The problem in South East Asia is that, farmers are asking: Who are these guys, the Syngenta corporate guys in their corporate headquarters in Switzerland? Why do they want to tell us how to grow rice? Who do they think they are? Do they think they know better than a hundred million rice farmers in Asia?

I don't know if it is racism back in Bern or Zurich, but I have a feeling that they don't eat a lot of rice. So, is it all about share holder profits?

They may think they know better. White people do tend to have that idea from time to time... Ahem. ...

So why are these people in Europe and North America so hell-bound on introducing patented GMO rice in Asia?

There are all kinds of other issues with Syngenta, such as their toxic Paraquat pesticides, and their history as a chemical company. Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific, PANAP, has much more.

Paraquat is banned in at least 36 countries including Switzerland, Syngenta's home country, and restricted in other countries. Both Sri Lanka and China have imposed restrictions on certain formulations.

For more information, see the paraquat monograph

Source: Stop Paraquat Now!

In December 2011, Syngenta along with other agrochemical transnational corporations were found guilty of gross human rights violations by a Session of the Permanent People's Tribunal.

Same corporate juggernaut trying to make profits, any way possible.

From Huffpost Hawaii: The Difference between a farmer and a global chemical corporation:

Syngenta was formed through the merging of pharmaceutical giants Novartis and AstraZeneca's agrochemical lines. They manufacture highly dangerous pesticides like paraquat and atrazine that are banned in their home country of Switzerland, but used largely in poorer countries (as well as Hawaii). Paraquat is a major suicide agent. Syngenta has lobbied exhaustively in the European Union to block a ban on its bee-killing neonicotinoids, including threatening to sue individual EU officials. It has hired private militias to murder farmer activists. Syngenta is responsible for 18 Superfund sites in the US.

We have recently gotten the Swiss banking system to become more accountable. What about their chemical corporations? What about their push from toxic chemicals to genetically modified organisms?

Syngenta is heavily involved in trying to profit from the genetically modified rice that we discussed in the Philippines.

Syngenta calls it "Golden Rice" but we do not want to call it anything but "Fool's Gold Rice" or "Toxic Rice" or "Jaundice Rice" as the proponents of GM rice have already made it clear that they will use it, no holds barred, as their public relations tactic.

What I felt at the conference in Manila was a strong resentment among farmers in Asia that a small group of anonymous white people in their board rooms in a small country in Europe with no accountability are making decisions about their precious Asian rice.

"The farmers are at the front line..."

"We are all interconnected..."

"Let us not allow corporations to control our rice."

公開日: 2014/04/23
MASIPAG is a network of farmers' organizations, NGOs and agricultural researchers in the Philippines, working towards farmer empowerment, food security and sovereignty through their leadership in the use and management of biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, farmer training and advocacy, local processing and marketing, and participatory guarantee systems.

Elizabeth Cruzada is a development practitioner who has worked primarily with organizations and communities of small farmers and women activitists in the Philippines. She has been actively involved in people's empowerment processes through participatory action research, leadership and capacity-building, organizational development and advocacy. In Masipag, she is currently handling organizational management aspects of the network.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Earth Day In Hamamatsu 2014

In conjunction with the day “Earth Day” to think about the global environment of April 20, Earth Day Hamamatsu 2014 will be held in Municipal Enshu Seaside Park.

I like how these guys spent the weekend enjoying music and all kinds of shopping with a focus on organic foods and crafts.

They also went out on the beaches to pick up the kind of garbage - plastics, ropes, all kinds of nets and whatnot - that wash up from the ocean. Image from facebook

Our heavy lifestyle choices are making that kind of dirty impression on our precious planet.

Others who care are celebrating Earth Day in the Seto Uchi, or the Seto Inland Sea, south of Okayama. 

It used to be that you would go to a beach to look for beautiful sea shells.

Now, what you also find, is lots of garbage made of plastic.

Sorry to say, but the footprint we are making on this planet and its oceans is not a pretty picture.

Earth Day is one event that tries to make more people aware.

Earth Day In Kagoshima 2014

I could go on and on. Earth Day is such a mainstay of great events in Japan. Give these guys some credit. Another Japan is indeed possible, no, it is already happening. All over the place.

So much good you would have to be hiding under a rather heavy rock to not notice it. As they say, it is more up to you, than the place you happen to be in.

Asahi: Demonstrators turn out in force in Kagoshima to oppose Sendai plant restart

KAGOSHIMA--An estimated 6,000 anti-nuclear activists rallied on March 16 here to protest the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s decision to short-list reactors at the Sendai nuclear power plant for safety screenings--a prelude to their restart.

Go with the flow and you will notice there is a new movement happening.

Earth Day Kagoshima

Balance by Kagoshima native Nakamura Tetsuro

Facebook Earth Day Kagoshima

Earth Day In Nara 2014

So many events, so much focus on our planet and our future. So much to feel good about! Earth day all over Japan.

Here is more from the event in Nara, the ancient capital of Yamato, or Wa. Focus on how history connects to the future. That's life!

Cool marching band, from 2:30 or so!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day In Tokyo 2014

Globe-straddling eco event Earth Day has found a particularly receptive audience in Japan, where the two-day gathering in Yoyogi Park consistently draws over 100,000 people each year. It's an opportunity for charities, NPOs and eco-conscious businesses to flaunt their wares and draw new recruits, but many people just go to enjoy the art, vibes and free music. If you're one of the capital's long-suffering vegetarians, too, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit to the Earth Day Kitchen zone for a good selection of herbivorous eats.

From Time Out

Be that as it may, I'm really disappointed by the event's website's main focus on meat eating, and I do not normally want to be pointing fingers, but why let this guy's passion for deer hunting and his "venison cooking" be such a major part of this event?

Bad, bad taste. Mr. C. W. you may have your own likes and dislikes. We all have our favourite issues and concerns. But you do not use Earth Day to promote meat eating. Whatever your reason is.

So sad.

Better Message for Tokyo Earth Day 2014:

Spring is coming… and with it, Earth Day!  How will you celebrate our
beautiful home?  Plant some food, take a child to the park, or come to
Earth Day Tokyo 2014.  I will be celebrating in solidarity!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Earth Day In Nasu, Tochigi 2014

Earth Day in Nasu is now an annual event for many small organizations that have hosted large symposiums on how to care for our planet over the years.

They do wonderful market events and workshops as well as art shows.

Earth Day in Nasu, Tochigi prefecture has all kinds of projects prepared for May, 2014.

Which got me to explore another rural Tochigi initiative, that has been around for over 40 years:

The Asian Rural Institute (ARI) is a training center for Rural Leaders. Founded in 1973 by Rev. Dr. Toshihiro Takami the aim of the program is to invite and train local grassroots leaders to more effectively serve in their communities as they work for the poor, the hungry, and the marginalized.

Each year from April to December we bring together about 30 leaders from countries primarily in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific to take part in our Rural Leaders Training Program. The training focuses on sustainable agriculture through integrated organic farming techniques, community building, and servant leadership. It is community based and hands-on learning is emphasized in all areas. Working together we grow and share our own food.

At the heart of the program is the concept of ‘Foodlife‘ (J) a term designed to recognize and value the interdependency between life and the food that sustains all life.

The Asian Rural Institute Rural Leaders Training Center Tsunagaru Events Report

“Tsunagaru” is a Japanese word that means “connecting”. At the Asian Rural Institute, we have many kinds of relationship building events to connect with people from the local area and Japan. We plan our Tsunagaru events to give the community a chance to discover, learn, and communicate with us. With so many different ways of thought, ways of life, and things and skills we possess, there are many kinds of opportunities available. We look forward to you joining us and building connections through flea markets and used books drives, seminars, food, music, and more!

2013 Training Report

One participant, during her Morning Gathering, shared about her learning at ARI in this way: “There is a river in front of us. The river is poverty, lack of education, laziness and selfishness. NGOs come to help us. They carry us across the river. But they do not teach us how to cross on our own. So after they go back, we cannot cross the river again. But ARI is different. What we learned at ARI is how to cross the river.” Another participant sang a song in her final oral presentation: “You gave me power! ARI gave me power!”
Surely they learned a lot. Servant leadership, knowledge and practice of organic farming, the dangers of chemicals, participatory learning and action, livestock, natural farming, agroforestry, 3-D farming, permaculture, pollution issues, development issues, localization, biogas and so on. But what we most wanted them to learn is the principal of local resources; that they can go forward by their own power, which is already present in their own communities. Rural leaders can find what they need in their community, and should encourage people and work/live together with them. Participants learn this philosophy, and how to serve each other, through class, farm work, cooking and every aspect of daily life.

More news from people that have brought about some remarkable change:

Honorary guest Mr. Tomikazu Fukuda, Governor of Tochigi Prefecture, described ARI as “pride of Tochigi” in his congratulatory message. Another honored guest, Mr. Toshio Itabashi, Board Chairman of the Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Scholarship Fund addressed the governor’s presence, saying “I believe this is a sign of recognition that the work of Asian Rural Institute, and its modest but fundamental contribution to world peace, is someting that Tochigi Prefecture can be proud of before the world.”

The special events continued in the afternoon with a graduates-centered symposium. Mr. Thomas Mathew, Indian graduate of 1988, and Ms. Judith Dhaka, Zambian graduate of 2001, delivered keynote speeches under the title “The Transformation We Have Brought About.” They talked about the culture shock they received when they arrived in Japan, and how the experience of rural leadership training at ARI shaped their personalities. ARI’s concept of servant leadership, living with people of different religions and practicing sustainable agriculture on a daily basis had a deep impact for their their work in Asia and Africa.


“Food is key to any development” says Ms. Dhaka. “I taught my community to preserve all the fresh vegetables that we eat, especially during the rainy season, and process some tuber crops like pumpkins and sweet potatoes.” About the leadership training she says: “I learned how to humble myself as a leader, to be a practical leader, especially by doing dish-washing and compulsory morning chores, when even the director (of ARI) can clean the toilet.”

Mr. Mathew was touched by the visit to the Hiroshima Peace Museum during his training and has since worked towards abolishing nuclear weapons. “My visit to Hiroshima at the time of the Western Japan Study Tour totally changed my thoughts about peace. The story of the hibakusha (victimes of the nuclear bomb) was painful for all of us gathered in Hiroshima YMCA.” After returning back to India, he invited hibakusha to speaking tours besides also promoting organic agriculture.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Drakskip: Swedish Folk Musik From Japan

I almost went to this live tonight with Kyoto folk music band Drakskip featuring Tatsushi Toritani... Great to see some Swedish nyckelharpa and violins, with a great beat.

Drakskip is a Japanese band in love with the Scandinavian music, formed in 2006 in Kyoto, Japan.
They perform both traditional and original tunes inspired by Scandinavian traditional music with their own unique sound.
They have performed with famous artists,
LAU, Valkyrien Allstars, FRIGG and Göran Månsson.

They have a decent English website too, click to start listening!

But you could call this a rare match of cultures:

Their drummer Nabe has a uniquely Japanese background in percussion. When he was seven years old he saw the Japanese drum troupe "Kodo" and it so inspired him that he religiously practiced Taiko (Japanese drum). When he was a high school student Nabe spent a year in Tasmania, Australia and during his stay, he was an instructor for the local Taiko group there. His vast experience with Taiko has significantly contributed to Drakskip’s unique sound.

Live from 2011. "Horse Carrying the Sun":

Friday, April 11, 2014

Please Get Rid Of Nuclear Weapons ASAP Meeting In Hiroshima...

...or as it is officially known as, the Nuclear Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) is being held this weekend in Hiroshima, Japan. I feel a little bit like Tom Hanks or rather that character he played, Forrest Gump, who happened to turn up at all kinds of important events in history, because for other reasons I happen to be in Hiroshima right now while this is going on. NGOs including ICAN, Ploughshares and Pax are paying attention, but will mainstream media? Flags and banners here and there, important-looking delegates in black suits, and some cool people hanging out at Otis! tonight. Hope something good will come out of this.
April 11, 2014
To call for world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki

by Jumpei Fujimura, Staff Writer

A “Hiroshima Declaration” will be prepared by the 12 non-nuclear nations of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, including Japan and Australia, at their ministerial meeting to be held in Hiroshima on April 11 and 12 it was learned April 7. The declaration will call on world leaders, including those of nuclear nations, to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Final discussions are underway to see that the declaration focuses on the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and that it includes a call for unity in the effort to bring about a world without nuclear weapons despite nations’ varying stances on nuclear disarmament.

This will mark the first time the NPDI has called on world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In speeches delivered at a high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament at the United Nations General Assembly last September, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida called on world political leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see the impact of the atomic bombings firsthand. Through the Hiroshima Declaration, the government intends to make this an international proposal.

As foreign minister of the host nation, Mr. Kishida will chair the NPDI ministerial meeting. In an interview with the Chugoku Shimbun, he said, “The foreign ministers of various countries will come to Hiroshima and learn firsthand about the reality of the atomic bombing. Delivering a political message after that is one reason holding the meeting here is significant.”

With regard to the growing international focus on the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, Mr. Kishida said, “In working toward a world without nuclear weapons, taking into account their inhumanity will serve as a catalyst for uniting the international community.” As for the upcoming ministerial meeting he said, “I would like to gain a consensus based on an awareness of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and use it to issue a shared political message.” Source: Hiroshima Peace Media Center