Saturday, March 31, 2012

A human family

Cactus flower and Buddha in a neighbor's garden.
This flower blooms once a year for only a couple of days
I hope to set the tone for this blog post as loving and positive for the future of our society. If the image above makes you feel peaceful and in awe of the beauty of creation, please hold this with you as you read this blog post.

A really sad thing happened at the school I work at yesterday. This event was a local reminder that the pain of our global history of slavery and colonialism is still a deep reality for many people in many places. It is quite tragic yet salient that the event I am about to describe is occurring in the midst of national pain and outrage about the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

I teach in an after school program at a public school in the Los Angeles area. The school site at which I work surrounds a public park whose facilities include a baseball diamond, which has recently been in use by a private little league team. A public park, by definition, is a park that anyone from the community can access at any time.

Yesterday (the last day before spring break), my coworkers and about 30 middle school students were playing on the baseball diamond. They were playing a game of baseball and minding their own business. Out of nowhere, a tall and burly man approached my students and my coworkers shouting 'get out!'. He proceeded to rudely speak to my students and coworkers in this fashion. One of my coworkers asked him to speak to them politely, at which point he got in her face and started to repeatedly shout 'are you trying to act smart with me?' and threatened to call the police. Mind you, She is a 5'2" young woman - this man was about 3 times her size and probably more than twice her age. In retrospect, it is likely that even if he had called the police, he would have been the one apprehended for his aggressive and threatening behavior. As he continued to get in my coworker's face, shouting at her in front of my students, she continued to calmly ask him to speak to her politely. At this point, he screamed for my coworkers and students to 'f***ing get off of the field'. He screamed this loudly enough for my students to hear what he said.

This behavior was shocking and disturbing to my coworkers and me, and clearly traumatic for my students. My students and coworkers are primarily people of color, and though I loathe to bring up issues of race when one's personal discriminations might not be at play, I have a very strange feeling that his personal discriminatory beliefs were at play here. He could have easily said "Hey, we have booked the field for a game this evening, would you guys mind bringing your game to a conclusion so we can prep the field? Thanks!" Instead, he approached them aggressively from the get-go and demeaned my students and coworkers because he did not inherently value them as people. I can't imagine him screaming such profanity at a young little league mom or in front of the little leaguers. Further, if he had a tendency to scream at children and people in such a rude fashion, I can't imagine that the little league would have hired him to work for them. It is hard to imagine why this man would use such foul language in front of a group of children if he harbored any amount of care for their wellbeing and respect for them as fellow human beings.

My heart was literally hurting over this, as I could see in my students faces how hurt they were. As 11 and 12 year olds, they are not yet fully aware of the ugly side of humanity's history over the last 500 years and certainly do not have the maturity to not feel demeaned by the day's dramatic events. This was also a traumatic event for our white students. It seems that this man thought that he was somehow more entitled to this public field than the public school students since he worked for a private little league.

There are many scenarios that happen like this all over Los Angeles and our country/planet today. Just recently, another black teen was shot and killed by security guards. In speaking of justice for Trayvon, the focus has been on apprehending his killer and on fighting slander from people who for some sick reason see it in their interest to slander the boy. The security guards that shot the other boy again make excuses for their shooting. Regardless of whether the killer was in the right or wrong, those young men did not deserve to die. I would argue that no one deserves to die, least of all a person just getting started on their life's journey. Similarly, regardless of whether my students were ripping out the grass or playing an innocent game of baseball, NO ONE has the right to speak to them in as humiliating of a manner as that man did today. Further, justice for Trayvon will only truly happen once no young people of color are violated structurally (by being put in jail, having higher rates of suspensions, more likely to get killed without apprehension of killer, more police brutality, stuck in classrooms with 50 other students, pulled over by cops for no reason, less job opportunities, etc.....).

Trayvon and his dad via Facebook.
Each one of us alive today has room for improvement. Each one of us has been shaped by the genetic codes of ancestors and by the societal norms that we have been taught by all of the people in our lives and the media. If we really want to build a healthy society where justice prevails, we must all question ourselves and our judgements of others. We must let go of anger and hatred - fully. We must find peace within ourselves, for true strength is within peace and not within anger.

I used this incident today as a learning piece with my students. Some of them were so angry and talked about how they wanted to beat this guy up. I suggested to them that if one of them had actually punched that man (or if one of our staffers had done so), they would have been the ones going to jail or otherwise getting in trouble. As Gandhi said, an eye for an eye will make the whole world go blind. I suggested instead civic engagement - telling their parents to call the city and the little league to file complaints. My coworker who was approached by this man is also going to file complaints. I am going to write an article about this to submit to Los Angeles based news outlets. It is time that we put racial hatred and discrimination to an end. The new and next generations should not have to continue bearing the cross that so many have had to carry before them.

Last point to make in this article is the following - perhaps the most salient point against racism is that modern genetic science has proven that ALL human beings are born genetically capable of developing intelligence and mental capacity in an equal manner. That is to say, we are all capable of learning language, logical rationalizing, scientific inquiry, innovating, creating art, etc. Since this is true, we all have to come to terms with the fact that we are made of the same essence and that we are a great big family that comes from the same ancestral background.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Please share. Thank you.

Nisha Namorando Vida
Founding Director
Local to Global Life Works

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Who is going to look out for the seeds?

Seeds are a precious inheritance of humans, passed down for millenia by all the human societies that have lived before those of us alive today. Modern agriculture has already caused a massive loss of seed diversity within the last 2 generations. This is in part why it is so important to eat organic and to grow your own food if possible.

The truth is, even bioengineers of genetically modified crops depend on seed diversity so that they have a pool of genes to draw on to create new seed types. Seed diversity is in the interest of EVERYBODY.

Seeds are life! Seeds are our life! Seed diversity is necessary for the future of humanity.

So, who is going to look out for the seeds? WE ARE!

And these organizations are helping us out:

Baker's Creek Heirloom (who are partnering with the Label GMOs campaign)
Many others!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Soy kills animals and people!

Mother in Paraguay whose son died after being sprayed on a pesticide farm. Via Telegraph UK

Yes, it is true. Soy - particularly non-organic soy - kills animals and people. The following list details why. Click on the bullet point to link to an article providing more details.

1. Pesticides used on soy farms in the United States harm or kill wildlife.

2. Pesticides used on soy farms kill wildlife in other countries.

3. Pesticides used on soy farms kill children and people.

4. Soy production is a primary cause for destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of our planet. Aka, hundreds of thousands of species and millions upon millions of individual plants, animals and insects are killed for one crop. Actually, for 2 species - soy and cattle.

5. High doses of genetically modified soy may cause birth defects and miscarriage. This, however, is hard to truly know because there are no long term research studies into the impacts of genetically modified soy on human health.

6. One third of American agricultural land (78 million acres) are planted with soy, 90% of which is genetically modified. Genetically modified (GM) or genetically engineered means that the gene from one species of life is artificially inserted in a lab into the genetic code of a totally different species. These species would not be able to breed in nature. Companies produce GM crops to do a variety of things - withstand frost, kill bugs, produce their own pesticides, be able to withstand spray pesticides, produce certain oils or vitamin profiles, etc. Plants, by nature, pollinate far and wide. If (for example) a plant that is designed to kill all the insects around it gets into the wild and breeds with wild plants, this could have a HUGE impact on our ecosystems. Again, there are no ecological impact studies done on this issue, nor were these studies conducted prior to planting GM soy on multi-millions of acres.

7. A large percent of the massive amount of soy produced goes to feed livestock for meat, leather and production of other products. According to Cornell University researchers, raising animals on soy (versus pasture raised animals) is enormously wasteful of resources.

8. Buying a soy product trickles back to the soy industry. To the company, it does not matter if you are buying soy in tofu or in the form of a chicken that was raised on GM soy.

Image via Challenge Oppression

Please do more research into these issues for yourself if you doubt the authenticity of this article. And consider this -- all processed, prepared, pre-packaged, and factory made foods contain soy and corn in them in some shape or form, particularly in the United States. Further, the booming biofuel industry also depends on soy and corn. A LOT of soy has to be grown in order to put soy in most foods and biofuels.

If you want to not destroy animals, rainforests, and the health of communities around the globe, stop eating and consuming soy as much as possible.

There are a few things you can do in this regard:

1. Stop eating and consuming soy products as much as possible. If you eat soy for dietary reasons, diversify and eat a variety of beans and legumes. Check out World's Healthiest Foods for profiles on protein, mineral, vitamin and other content in plant-based foods.

2. Always look at labels of things and don't eat/buy stuff with soy in it, particularly if it is not organic. This will be difficult at first, but with time you will probably be eating better than ever. If it is not organic, you can bet that it is pesticide ridden (might even be genetically modified to produce its own pesticides) and is definitely genetically modified.

3. Tell all your friends and family about these issues and to stop buying/using soy products. Contact your elected officials and say you do not want genetically modified crops planted, or at least that you want them labeled. Advocate for removal of government subsidies to giant agro-companies. Contact Cargill and other soy producing companies and tell them that you boycott their products until they remove themselves from rainforest nations.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What to do with all the LEMONS??

Lemons from a neighborhood tree

Here in Southern California, we are blessed with abundance and with perfect weather for growing citrus.

Do you have a lemon tree, or have a neighbor or friend with a lemon tree with a ton of lemons? Here is one idea for something you can do with alllll those lemons waiting to be plucked:

Clean your home!!!

It is as easy as slicing open a lemon, squeezing the juice onto counters or in cabinets, and wiping down. There is no sugar in lemon juice so it won't leave sticky counters, lemon is a natural antibiotic and so will kill all the germs, it obviously won't leave any nasty industrial chemical residues on your counters or in the air in your home, and it smells SO delicious. Lemons from local trees are also super sustainable since they grow plentifully and don't come wrapped in plastic.

The easiest things to clean with lemon are: kitchen tables (or any kind of table), hard floors, kitchen/bathroom/bedroom/any kind of counter or cabinet, basically any flat surface. Lemon if squeezed onto mildew in your shower and left to soak will break down mildews too, although white vinegar is probably a better mildew killer than lemon.

Just squeeze the juice, pick out any seeds, and swipe! You can swipe with water after if you want, though it is certainly not necessary. A little bit of lemon juice will go a long way. If you are good about storing unused lemon halves, one lemon can last 2-3 days (depending on the amount of mess). I leave lemons out on my counter for easy access, but if this seems to germy to you, just store them in a container in the fridge if you are not using them.

If you really want to go the extra mile, you can juice a lemon or two, strain the juice into an empty spray bottle (but don't buy a plastic spray bottle just for this!), maybe add a few drops of an essential oil like lavender or rosemary for fragrance, and store in the fridge when you are not using.

Ask your friend or neighbor if you can pluck some of their lemons. Most likely they will say yes, and even if you pluck 10 lemons, their tree will still be FULL!

Try it out and let us know how it goes! :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Everything is related

Everything is connected. We live on a globe. A globe, by definition, is a 3-D circle, and what is a circle if not a closed circuit. Something that happens on the other side of town or the other side of the planet may exist in isolation in certain regards, but in the bigger picture, they are directly correlated.

The chaos that human society faces today is a direct result of choices that our forefathers and mothers have made, putting modern humans in the difficult situation of having to reevaluate things that have been taken for granted for generations in the United States as 'good' or at least as not harmful to humans and our local communities.

This blog post is just about sharing information about a few things going on in the world locally from Los Angeles to the global level. We ask that you reflect on these connections, who is benefitting in the short or long term, and who is being harmed. We argue that in the long run, no one benefits from selfish investments, not even the profit seekers. As mentioned above, we live on a closed circuit. Everything cycles back around, at some point.

Occupy LA (see Tony Velloza video above), building Los Angeles factories in low income/people of color neighborhoods (see opening video to this blog post), selling and increasingly planting genetically modified foods regardless of human/environmental health risks, food costs, and government investment into shady energy deals are all fundamentally related issues.

So what can you do?

The first thing is to educate yourself. Let what you learn (and the likely resulting repulsion) inspire you to get creative -- yes, that's right, use the problems in the world to help you find your own creative ways to step out of the cycle of destruction that has been created for us by powers outside of our control. 'Our' refers to ALL people alive today, since one person is just part of a bigger picture, even if one person can make a huge impact on the world. Try to work on thinking of the plants, animals, peoples and elements around you as intrinsically connected to yourself. Work on healing your personal pains and finding peace within. The Dalai Lama says that there will not be peace on Earth until everyone can find peace within themselves. Remember that YOU MATTER! And that the world is still filled with beautiful things and places, and that small steps now lead to big movement in the future.

Lastly, make sure to contact your elected representatives to voice your opinions on things as frequently as possible. If you give up on your government, it will give up on you.

Peace and peas!

Local to Global Life Works

Friday, March 9, 2012

100 Seeds of Change!

A few weeks ago I blogged about getting a free fruit tree from a fruit tree giveaway in Inglewood hosted by Tree People and the Social Justice Learning Institute through their project 100 Seeds of Change. Today I received an email containing a video about a vegetable garden 100 Seeds of Change has built at a park in Inglewood. I was moved and inspired by the video and so want to share it. Check it out and have a fantastic weekend!

Roots and shoots,

Nisha Namorando Vida
Founding Director
Local to Global Life Works

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Who Owns the Future of Food?: From genetically modified organisms to seasonal organic

Dear community,

I am organizing an event (not an official Local to Global event) sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee Los Angeles on seeds, seasonal foods, genetic modification of food, and the connection of these issues to local and global peace. If you are around, come join us! See details below.

Peas and carrots,

Nisha Namorando Vida
Local to Global Life Works Founder/Director


Date: Thursday, March 8, 2012

Time: 7:00-8:30 pm

Event title: Who Owns the Future of Food?: From genetically modified organisms to seasonal organic

Organized by: American Friends Service Committee

Address: 634 S. Spring St., 3rd Floor. Los Angeles, 90014.

Cost: Free


What is in your food? In the United States, purchasing an industrially farmed, processed and packaged food item containing ingredients shipped several times across the globe and requiring laboratory work (in the form of pesticides and genetically modified seeds) is oftenfar cheaper than purchasing a locally grown carrot or tomato from the neighborhood farmer’s market.  Industrial agriculture is a primary contributor to global warming, behind automobile and factory exhaust, and highly processed foods resulting from the industrial agricultural process are a primary contributor to obesity, diabetes, heart problems and other illnesses. Over 70% of foods eaten by Americans contain genetically modified seeds, and the farming of soy is a primary contributor to the massive destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Food is traded as a commodity on stock exchanges, meaning that it is grown and sold to raise a profit for business people. In response, urban communities across the United States have started to grow their own food from organic and heirloom seed.

What exactly is a ‘genetically modified seed’? What is 'heirloom'? What does growing one’s own vegetables have to do with peace in one’s community and world peace? Who owns the future of food? Join the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Friends Peace Dialogue to address these questions. Come learn something new and contribute to this important conversation. Our featured speakers for the evening are Megan Bomba and Deanna Marie Weakly.

Megan Bomba:
Megan is a UC trained biologist, who helped coordinate the founding of the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA), helps manage it currently, and is spearheading the effort to create a branch of the library in Northeast Los Angeles. SLOLA serves as a way to collect and catalogue heirloom and non-genetically modified seeds grown by Los Angeles basin food growers for current and future generations of Angelenos.

Deanna Marie Weakly:
Dee is a Master Gardener who started the rooftop garden at the LA Community Action Network. She continues to work with Skid Row and other downtown Los Angeles residents to grow edible plants and is also working with City Year on a school garden project at Compton Elementary. Her goal is to start an urban farm on the Angel’s Flight hillside in downtown LA. This urban farm would be accessible to all downtown Los Angeles residents.

The Friends Peace Dialogues is a monthly speaker series sponsored by the AFSC for the community. Learn about AFSC's Friends Peace Gardens at Los Angeles area high schools here

Come join us!