I have been working all week on an intense project and ideas for this particular topic have been swirling through my head. Sometimes they gel into a cogent statement, buttressed by facts from all the sources wheatthat spin past me each day and at other times, they just drop into the pool of ideas that I hold in memory over many years of thinking about this subject.  When I want to be technically accurate, I refer to the notes I take in a spiral notebook on the coffee table in the family room so I can jot down names, figures, book titles and ideas as they come to me.  But this week I am also starting a pullover for Geoff (finished my Noro cardigan) and using my notebook to chart the pattern (something I have learned to do after thirty-something years of knitting), so I am too lazy to leaf through it for more data.

That is a long way of saying, I will just wing this.  I was laughing to myself that I could probably have a permanent tab on this blog, riffing on this word and at some future date, I will share all the punning variations that immediately came to mind, each for a particular topic that gets my Irish going.

What prompted this post (in addition to a few recent developments in these areas, in the news last week) was seeing the two links below.  Their connection may make more sense later in this post or in a future one.  In any case, the first one is a must-see. Make sure you watch the whole thing (it’s only a few minutes).

Everything in my background conspired to create a person who cares about people, this planet and every single living thing (and resource) on it.  I am a child psychologist because I sincerely believe (and can prove by sound evidence) that everything we become is founded in the first seven to eighteen years of our life.  The first three are the most critical, then the next four, the next five (with a critical developmental stage around the age of 12, i.e., puberty, etc.). So, lest anyone think that I care more about other things, than people, you need only look to my education and work to know that isn’t so.

America's bread basketHowever, I love the rest of the living things on this earth, especially animals. But almost as much, the resources and abundant treasures we inherited. It seriously pains me to see it destroyed.  I was happy but not satisfied, for example, to see Ed Schultz come around to condemning the Keystone Pipeline and getting his head out of the tar sand. If for no other reason than this toxic, noxious-gas-emitting, carcinogenic sludge would likely leak into the Ogallala Aquifer, the second largest fresh water body in the United States, and destroy the mid-Western bread basket, responsible citizens must see to it that this potential disaster doesn’t slip across the Canadian border.  I hope Canada will leave it in the ground where it belongs. It will go to China, not us.  It would be a mistake of epic proportions to extract and ship it.

I was also thinking of the wonderful bread basket of Northern California where Geoff and I lived, in the East Bay, before we moved down to SoCal.  We could go to Berkeley Bowl, a hypermarket for fresh produce in Oakland, and choose from hundreds of fresh, unique and healthy fruits and vegetables, among many other incredible delicacies.  People whose diet is heavily weighted toward animal products and processed or fast foods, have no idea what a magnificent experience for the senses, a plant-based rainbow diet of fresh food is and how it revolutionizes one’s menu. In fact, there is a new series on PBS on Scandinavian cooking that is worth DVRing, if you can. If berkeley bowlyou want to find a fresh, healthy, mouth-watering cuisine, you will find it in the wild-food based diet of the Norwegians, Swedes and Danes.  For pastry, the Danes rival the Austrians, too.   Our diets are comparatively dull, tasteless, and frankly, deadly.  When I was in high school and still eating meat, I found out that the rest of the world eats cows, chickens and pigs that actually move around and live a decent life outdoors in nature — and the meat has flavor, I experienced it over and over again, first hand, during extensive travels.  Americans just don’t realize that ours does not. Until you compare it for yourself, you will not understand or believe me.  If you have been to Holland, as just one among many examples, you will realize that our meat and cheese pales by comparison.

Our food in America isn’t live.  It is all produced by agribusiness,  giant corporations whose only concern is profit — lots of it.  We are sick and fat and narcotized, as a result.  It doesn’t have to be this way, but, we are sheeple and have been thoroughly indoctrinated.  There is nothing wrong with enterprise, berkeley bowl twobut I don’t want a CEO to rake billions off the ill-health of the population and vital resources of this earth.  All you have to do is pay attention to the news of toxic spills, millions (I am not exaggerating) of pounds of recalled contaminated meat from factory farms where the diseased and miserable animals are squeezed into tiny spaces and spend their whole lives living in their own waste before being dragged to their death, sick, fallen and suffering, if you want to know what is really going on. Why would anyone want to eat that?  Just because it is sexed up with chemical flavors, dyes, and extruded into the shape of something that reminds us of the diet our ancestors used to eat before the runaway industrial complex took over our food supply.

Dr Irene Pepperberg and Alex

Animals feel, think, understand, reason far more than we give them credit for. Because most of them cannot speak. I live with two animals.  One of them speaks, English, understands what she is saying, and expresses herself in a large vocabulary that she has learned to combine into novel sentences that indicate true cognition and ratiocination. There is impressive research on parrots to support this (look up Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her world famous work with and on Alex, pictured right).  And, we all know that the great apes and large water mammals can perform similar communication marvels.  We wouldn’t be so quick to put live turkeys in shredders if we all knew this to be true, as I do, from my reading and first-hand experience. Crows are almost as smart, but don’t have voiceboxes and the musculature to produce speech, the way all parrots do, to a greater or less degree, African Grey’s being the best at it.

I get just as upset when trees are needlessly destroyed.  My next door neighbor, an attorney who is renting the house with a backyard adjacent to ours, separated by a high stone wall, had a party two weeks ago.  She apparently convinced the owner to “prune” two magnificent trees that provided shelter, shade and beauty to our backyard, as wells as hers.  I stood outside and guided the “gardeners” in Spanish, to save as much as I could but they butchered those two gentle giants anyway.  treesNow we are trying to figure out what we can plant along that wall, that will grow quickly enough, to shield our eyes from their carcasses, that were left in plain sight of our property.  I was furious but there wasn’t a thing I could do.  Wanton destruction and stupidity were at work.  Our national parks suffer the same fate from ignorant, short-sighted and greed-driven programs.

Our honey guy has finally thrown in the towel.  We go out of our way to buy our produce at the local farmer’s market every week.  He had been in Valencia (and surrounding towns) for 20 years.  There are just not enough bees left for him to stay in business.  Why? Because Monsanto needs to have jacked-up crops that are drowned in pesticides. Frogs and bees are disappearing, all over the earth.  I could shield myself from some of it, but I have noticed too that bumble bees no longer come to my yard, all my lady bugs (not only pretty, but practical as they feed on harmful insects) are gone.  Very few butterflies, despite my putting out trays of fruit for them.

I was encouraged to hear Russell Simmons — someone with the clout and finances to make a difference — talking to Joy Reid about the fact that there are 40 billion animals in factory farms emitting enormous amounts of methane, far more dangerous to global warming and the ozone layer than carbon from the fossil fuel industry (especially fracking and coal burning). Those farmers-market-honey40 billion pigs, cows and chickens are eating material that could feed all the hungry people on this planet, many times over, end starvation and spare the lives of these helpless creatures in the process. We need more people to get on board with eating lower on the food chain.

I could probably cite more examples that are my particular pet peeves in this area, but instead, I will leave you to visit these two links that I think bolster my arguments, at least on the topic of animals. Thank you for indulging me as I ambled (and ranted?) through this stream of consciousness, and feel free to give me your thoughts, too.

To be continued in future posts …



21 Comments on “Agrivation”

  1. Beth- wonderful! I agree with all you have to say. The disappearance of the bees is especially troublesome. At the ROM- where I regularly volunteer- there is a colony of bees that can access one of the ‘hands on’ areas of the Museum so children (and adults who are at all engaged with nature/science/the environment) can see the workings.

    Two winters ago the hive just died. Our ‘bee lady’ (who is one of the most incredibly charismatic educators I’ve ever met) and her colleagues at the University of Guelph spent a long time trying to figure out the cause- but they were unable to pin it down to any one specific thing. But she continues to make the case that they loss of our bees is a serious harbinger to which we had best be paying attention.

    I had an interesting discussion with my SO (who has been a vegetarian for over 20 years) the other night. We touched on many of the same topics you mention- and laid out our plan to be more aware about what we eat in general. Monsanto is terrifying.

    As a Canadian, Keystone is frustrating as hell. For the cost of dragging the oil from the tar sands our government could instead be promoting sustainable energy sources- that will neither damage the environment nor First Nations lands and watersheds. Harper isn’t interested. We have to demonstrate that we aren’t interested in Harper, come next election. Hopefully it won’t be too late.

    I could go on with my response! So much resonance here! Great post!


    • Thank you so much Cole! I always fear offending people, but this is so important. We have to protect all of this. Isn’t it the truly ‘conservative’ approach?

      I don’t understand Obama. He is all we have, really – the rest of our Congress talks about it (well, the Progressive with whom I ‘caucus’, lol, anyway) but paltry action has been taken on all these fronts. Obama is going to let that pipeline go through. It really infuriates me. Bernie Sanders is thinking of running for President and frankly, he is probably the only person in our government that I would trust in this area of agriculture and food production. Harper is pressuring Obama and I think he might just cave (or there is some hidden motive).

      I have been a vegetarian since high school and a vegan in the past ten years and believe me, it is effortless. I keep my weight in check and I feel great. Plus, my diet is far more varied that 95% of the people I know. I do it for so many reasons, health and humaneness are the two most important. But we could use ranch land for far more intelligent food production. Why do people resist this, I cannot understand it.

      Anyway, bee disappearance is frightening. Bill Maher talks about this all the time.
      Sigh!! Glad we think alike in this regard, too. 🙂


  2. Thank you for taking the time to write this. I agree with everything you say here. I feel enraged and heartbroken, but also helpless. I am studying permaculture, but how can we realistically fight these corporate giants with their profit-driven endeavors? It’s such a deeply embedded problem. It gets at the very heart of how we live and how we achieve “happiness” in the western world.


    • Thank you for reading and encouraging me through your comment, Jami, first and foremost. I feel very strongly about this. I think a lot of our generation see this issue, tied as it is to the future of this planet and every living thing on it, as the seminal one of our time.

      At least Harry Reed has decided to take on the Koch brothers on this issue. He has pointed out that the Kochs have been destructive by pouring millions, if not billions of dollars, into ads that blatantly lie to the public about what is going on and the fossil fuel industry’s (as well as corporations like Monsanto and big pharma/chemical) deliberate sabotage of our health, the air, water, soil, animal population. Reed will continue to expose these monsters for what they are: greedy, callous, selfish, destructive of every good thing.

      I think will all these oil spills, earthquakes and coal ash disasters, even in the South, people will start realizing that it is in their own best interest, and that of their children and grandchildren, to stop these corporations from destroying the earth.

      I am glad you are on board. 🙂


  3. Ever since I watched Vanishing of the Bees, I’ve been horrified that big corporate dollars have lied to us about more than I’ve even imagined. Aside from growth hormones and abuse of animals, oil spills and other disasters, I don’t understand why the public doesn’t care to do its own research. Are we really that lazy? Do we really want to believe the lies? Are we really that uncaring about the next generation and generations to come? I don’t have answers, only questions.


    • I think people get busy with their immediate problems. The middle class is struggling right now, just to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. It is so easy to only pay attention to immediate issues and forget the long term picture.

      I also think that for many under the age of 60, these things seem so far off. They/we don’t realize that we will not always be 20, 30, 40. We will be 70, 80 and even 90 and then we will likely get clobbered by all the things we ignored. We all think we are invincible or that old age is something far down the road or that we will be dead by the time it becomes important.

      I have a 100 year old relative and he has two sibling approaching that age. I am quite concerned, and want to be fit and alert and live with like-minded people and still enjoy bees, birds, butterflies, and frogs! I don’t want to have to eat GMOs when I am trying to stay healthy and active, later in life. Probably because I am a bit of a health freak, all of this matters to me. But also, I am a nature lover.

      We have been deliberately lied to, systematically and with very wily and persuasive disinformation. There are actually people in this country, lots of them, that think science and alternative energy are unnecessary. Because they have been brainwashed for years. It is scary.

      Thank you Susan, you and I seem to be on the same wavelength.


      • We are, Beth.

        And I must tell you that I had joy in my heart when I read the article about the research on dogs. I tweeted it, giving you recognition of course; no wonder I’m a dog person. When we get down to simpler things, it’s love that matters: for people, for animals, for the environment. And as a Christian, I have been given stewardship for all this by my Creator. How could I do any less?

        Thank you for your articulate and caring post, Beth.


        • Oh, that was good of you Susan! You bring up another of my pet peeves, and that is, the example of Christ was love, acceptance, charity, kindness. What happened to this in the US? Really baffles. I cannot imagine Jesus using or approving of a gun, for example, or taking a child’s lunch and throwing it away in front of a whole school, because his lunch bill isn’t up to date. What kind of morals are those?


          • Absolutely, Beth. Christ railed against religious Pharisees who worshiped law over love or compassion. We need to remember His words and His commands because He freed us from the law so the Spirit could live in our hearts. With that freedom comes a responsibility to Him – to take care of what He created. Including each other.

            OK, off my soap box. I’ll be starting to write about topics like this on my own blog next week in my new IMHO category. New territory for me, but going to give it a go. ;-/


            • You can stay right on that soap box, as far as I am concerned. This is so important. Sometimes I have to simply switch off the tv or not open a news story online, because I get so upset and frustrated. It is like screaming through a thick glass wall. Who said it in the Bible, ‘let those who have ears, hear and eyes, see’? Well, it is as clear as crystal to me. We are to be giving shelter to the earth, not raping it, not dominating it – that is a power concept that is anathema to me and I suspect to all true followers of such a gentle, loving Man and caring God.

              I look forward to your imho posts – great idea!


  4. I’ve read the dog article before; it’s odd but for me it’s hard to read, because I can’t help but think of all the misery and abuse heaped on animals when I read things like that.

    As far as what I eat, God I am so pathetic in this regard, and still continue to support big agribusiness with my habits. The truth is when it comes to food, I’m a complete idiot, and I end up throwing up my hands and thinking, where do I start? How do I tackle this? I know I need to. I am starting to see the effects of my poor diet in my health and I’m only 45 (or 44, heh). But I’ve tried to change my habits so many times and failed. I think what really did me in was discovering the gluten intolerance, and feeling totally defeated by that as I’d just begun to re-learn eating, then I felt I had to re-learn it again…and I gave up. My husband is full-on Paleo and maybe that is a place to start, although I am not a big meat-eater myself. Hell maybe I should just suck it up and go to a dietitian.

    I’m not sure these comments are going where you’d like them to go, LOL! But it is what your post made me think about.


    • Everyone has challenges in different areas. It is easy for me to be disciplined about food for some reason, except carbs — so there is my weakness. I have given up bread because I actually think most of us have a degree of gluten intolerance. We are probably not meant to eat much bread. That was hard. But the one thing I haven’t conquered is sugar. I put it in my coffee, I eat desserts from time to time. I eat chocolate and I like caramels. After 45+ years (46 on your system, lol), I have not overcome a sweet tooth — I am like a child in that regard.

      I think the paleo diet is good — you can substitute certain fish for the meat portion, if you want to head in that direction. Health-wise, it is hard to advise people (and who would I be to do it? it would be practicing without a license). Humane-wise, these factory farms are concentration camps for animals. We have to stop supporting them. You and I both love animals. It is just because this stuff is not in our face, that we don’t do something about this. If my great grandmother had not told me all about her pet cow (she grew up on a gentleman’s farm in Massachusetts), I probably wouldn’t have known how sweet and intelligent they are. She had a cat that was as smart as a parrot. Those stories made a big impression on me. I feel those factory farm animals suffering and that is one major reason I talk about that industry the way I do.

      Your head and heart are in the right place. You can’t be a saint (I’m sure not one).


      • In terms of the food supply, I can agree from the perspective of individual wellness and living a spiritual existence. As for the pipeline issue and a hydrocarbon-based economy, you might find Nick Cook’s “Hunt for the Zero Point” an interesting read.

        Cook, a Jane’s aerospace editor, wrote of his inquiry as to whether or not there exists [unified] field propulsion technology in the “black” world of defence and aerospace. If this technology does indeed exist–it would have the ability to exploit zero point energy, or the inherent energy of the vacuum of space–, then its existence would threaten the entire hydrocarbon economic beast.


        • Well slaying that dragon would be a magnificent achievement, imho, indeed! I will def check that out. Thank you for the interesting angle. We need an endless source of non-destructive energy to move forward in a world with up to 10 billion people (shortly, sadly and dangerously).


          • I’ve read that physicist Hal Puthoff stated that, depending upon the theory/calculations, there could be enough energy in the (empty) space of a single coffee cup to boil all the world’s oceans away, and more than once.

            The problem (in theory) with such science and technology is that it could be weaponized. If there is any basis in truth to this line of inquiry, the existence of such physics might itself be deeply, deeply classified. A modern day Manhattan Project. Another interesting book along the field propulsion lines is Dr. Paul LaViolette’s, Ph.D., “Secrets of Antigravity Propulsion,” as are all of his books that I have read. His “Decoding the Message of the Pulsars” is stunning in its implications.


            • Well, being trained in a “pure science” environment myself, I am for developing the most efficient energy source with the lowest negative impact on our planet. Anything can be weaponized by people who are bent on war-mongering. I am not one of them, I am a true peace-lover, so I will look to the industry to prevent the next Manhattan Project from being abused. I do think if we look at Oppenheimer and Feynman, and Einstein, they were very much against the use of the bomb they created for obliterating Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I hope the world has learned. We will see. Interesting leads, Nav.


            • Beth, three other books that you might also enjoy are:

              – Christopher Dunn’s “The Giza Powerplant.” A master craftsman and (later) engineer, Dunn noted that Egyptian relics and structures displayed evidence of machining technology that surpasses that which exists today. He interprets the Giza complex from the perspective of advanced manufacturing, engineering, and physics to argue how the complex could have been a power generation structure. The slightly convex sides of the great pyramids are antennae for background microwave radiation, with the “air shafts” actually being wave guides (if you’re familiar with radars) into the internal structure. A very rational interpretation of the evidence.

              – Thomas Brophy’s, Ph.D., “The Origin Map.” Brophy, an astrophysicist, interprets the megalithic ruins at Nabta Playa as recording ancient knowledge of astronomy that may even surpass that which we possess today. Evidence of a prime number based scale and knowledge of the Plank length. Stunning, if he’s only half correct.

              – For a light but thought-provoking read, you could also try “Civilization One.” The apparently non-sensical English system of measure (when compared to the logical, decimal nature of the metric system) might actually have an ancient, geodetic, and even spiritual origin.


  5. Beth you make excellent points and I agree wholeheartedly – and with the comments as well. It pains me to see corporate fat cats getting rich while the little people with limited options consume nutrient-deplete foods or barbarically butchered animals. Sadly, the ‘good’ foods can be hard to locate and expensive to buy – and remain out of reach for a large chunk of the population.

    People are great at rationalizing so education is key – but so are viable options are essential if we are to expect people to change their ways.

    Thanks for bringing this back into the spotlight!


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