Walk the paved path for 0.3 mile to find the trailhead for the prairie loop trail. Once on a soft-surface path, head into the heart of the mounds. The surrounding forest has encroached on the prairie-invasive plants too, like the dreaded Scotch broom. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources and volunteers are trying to restore the prairie to the way it appeared when Native peoples periodically set fires to them, keeping the vegetation in check.
More Mima Mound information can be found here.
For a complete story about other ways to enjoy the Capitol State Forest, click here.
Dream team Jocelyn Noir of ALAK, brother Michael RJ Saalman (once upon a dream Woman Year), and Zac Nelson (of prolific everything). Pants-free experimental pop jamz.
Cameron Hostetter (SoloCal, Oly)
The renaissance man, one little knows whether he’ll pull music, stand up, or beards out of his bag.
Just wants to be Kate Bush.
L’ile Pica (Oly)
Luke DeSio’s new baybee.
While most outside the United States don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May is a traditional cause for festivities locally. ThurstonTalk has gathered great stories related to Mexican culture and food. Start your celebration here.
Food writer, Mary Ellen Psaltis, goes into two local Mexican grocery stores. Learn more about the products sold and get great tips for shopping locally for international products.
Maggie Velasco-Lucero started the Jalisco Tortilla Factory about 15 years ago. Located in Shelton, the family business now includes her partner and three children.
Get some cooking tips directly from Mexico. Pulled from the 2012 archives, Mary Ellen Psaltis provides recipes for no pasta vegetable lasagna and chilaquiles.
Mix up the perfect margarita.
ThurstonTalk aims to be your source for positive information and events happening in Olympia. If you have a suggestion for a story, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.
By Tom Rohrer
While the Wolves, who are led by head coach Greg Bert, sit with a losing record of 3-8 (in team play) at this point of the season, there is reason for optimism going into the sub-district and district tournaments that will take place later this month.
Bert is extremely excited about the future of the program, and for good reason, as a host of talented underclassmen, including sophomore Alesha Rebetizer and freshmen Bailey Weatherby (the number two and three singles players respectively), are being thrown into varsity roles at a young age.
“We won the league in 2008 and 2009, the district championship in 2009 and five out of last six years we’ve gone to state. With what we lost from last year’s team, we knew it was going to be tougher this year,” said Bert, who has coached the girls team at BHHS since 2001. “But we make progress every day. This is an extremely young team that will only get better with time, and at this point in the season, we’re seeing those improvements come along.”
“It’s blessing and a curse to have some of your best players be underclassmen,” Bert continued. “The fact that they have two or three more years to improve is great, and they are getting that necessary experience now.”
One of the few key contributors left over from last year’s team, which was led by state placer Julie Hansen, is senior singles player Madilyn Sayler, who sits with an 8-2 record as the Wolves number one singles option.
A second team all-league volleyball performer in the 2A Evergreen conference this past fall, Sayler had to make the transition from doubles to singles this year. While that is a tough shift in play for any caliber player, it has come smoother for Sayler. She has used her high athleticism and positive attitude to propel herself to a number three ranking in the league.
“She’s just an athlete,” Bert said. “You tell her what to do and she’ll do it.”
“I like the transition and it’s been fun to explore different parts of tennis and play from different positions,” Sayler said. “There are not many positions in doubles, so you have to be able to expand your game to the entire court. I’ve become more aware of where the ball is going.”
No longer overshadowed by players such as Hansen (who finished 6th overall at state in 2012), all the pressure falls on Sayler, as she must play tough against the top player from every school the Wolves compete against. That pressure, and the role of an underdog against year-round players, is something Sayler relishes.
“I like the pressure, it makes me raise my level of play and really just work harder,” Sayler said. “It’s tough playing against a lot of these players who play year-round. I play volleyball, perform in musicals during the winter, so I can be considered an underdog. It’s a fun roll. It’s a fun challenge.”
Sayler will certainly face more challenges later this month, as she will play in the sub-district tournament with a chance to qualify for the district tournament. She believes she can advance if she keeps a positive mindset when mistakes happen.
“With singles, it was a hard transition to the fact that every mistake was my fault and I didn’t have a partner to shoulder some of that responsibility, but I think I’ve improved on that,” Sayler said. “I need to not get into my head if I lose a point and just keep a positive attitude. If I do that, I think I can win some matches.”
That positive, hardworking attitude that Sayler displays is a blessing for the younger BHHS players and Bert.
“She’s really one of the nicest humans I’ve ever met, and just a perfect example for our program,” Bert said. “I want her mentoring the younger singles players, bonding with them, so they can develop the same attitude and skills. When your top player is your team captain and the hardest worker, it’s a coach’s dream.”
A dream for a tennis coach in Washington is a consistent streak of days where the team practices outdoors. During the early portion of the season, the Wolves would have to constantly retreat to the gymnasium for practice, as rain rendered the courts unsafe. The time inside could be considered tedious, but in fact, served a great purpose for this young Wolves team, as they we’re able to practice the fundamentals over and over again.
“There is only so much you can do inside and for a team like last year’s team, there may not have been much improvement,” said Bert. “But for this team, it was sort of like a blessing in disguise. They really practiced and tailored their strokes and you can start to see that improvement and more so their confidence on full display now.”
A teacher at Black Hills since the school opened in 1997, Bert coached the boys team until 2006 before focusing on solely leading the girls team. Blessed with a fun and hardworking group, Bert is reminded about why he got into coaching the sport in the first place.
“Unlike a lot of other sports, tennis is something you can do for life and is a lifetime sport,” Bert said. “I just like to pass that passion on to the kids. I’m blessed to have a group that just enjoys being out here, playing together, and learning the game. You could say it’s a down year for us, but any team would struggle if they lost 13 seniors. We’ve improved tremendously and believe we can still have a successful season this year and will have lots of success going forward.”
That success, when it comes, certainly won’t surprise anybody.
“Textura” (from Latin root meaning “to weave”) is an exploration of the intersections between text, textiles and textures. The show will feature new works from four participating artists and a reframing of a fifth. The show includes paintings, glass mosaics, visual poetry, batik, and photographic reproductions of several fiber art pieces. Participating Artists: Sara Molina, Lisandro Rome Perez, Valencia Ganoe, Rhonda V. Murphy, Kelly Thomas Rule.
An artists’ reception will be held on Saturday, May 4th starting at 7pm.
Ashley Hunt is an artist and activist who uses video, photography, mapping and writing to engage social movements, modes of learning and public discourse. Among his interests are structures that allow people to accumulate power and those which keep others from getting power, while learning from the ways people come to know, respond to and conceive of themselves within these structures. Rather than seeing art and activism as two exclusive spheres of practice, he approaches them as complimentary, drawing upon the ideas of social movements and cultural theory alike — the theorizing and practices of each informing the other. This has included investigations into the prison, the demise of welfare state institutions, war and disaster capitalism, documentary representations and political activism. His recent performance, Notes on the Emptying of a City, explores the first-person politics of being in New Orleans with a camera in the months following Hurricane Katrina, when he engaged with community activists to research the city’s refusal to evacuate the Orleans Parish Prison. Other projects include a number of works included under the umbrella of The Corrections Documentary Project (www.correctionsproject.com), which centers around the contemporary growth of prisons and their centrality to today’s economic restructuring and the politics of race; 9 Scripts from a Nation at War, a collaboration with Andrea Geyer, Sharon Hayes, Katya Sanderand David Thorne, and an ongoing collaboration wtih Taisha Paggett, On Movement, Thought and Politics.
Hunt’s work has been screened and exhibited at the P.S.1/MOMA, Project Row Houses, Documenta 12,the Gallery at REDCAT, Nottingham Contemporary, the 3rd Bucharest Bienial, the Tate Modern, the Museum of Modern Art, the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta, as well as numerous grassroots and community based venues throughout the U.S.
Writings and publication include, Printed Project 12 (’09), the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest (‘08, ‘07& ‘05), On Knowledge Production: A Critical Reader (BAK ’08), Art Journal (‘07), Chto Delat (‘07), Rethinking Marxism (‘06), and at Artwurl.org (‘03–‘05), and Sandbox Magazine (‘02) .
Susan Gevirtz lives in San Francisco. Assistant professor for 10 years at Sonoma State University, Calfornia, she now teaches in CCA’s graduate Visual and Critical Studies and Fine Arts programs. Her books of poetry include Aerodrome Orion & Starry Messenger (Kelsey Street, 2010); BROADCAST (Trafficker, 2010); Thrall (Post-Apollo Press, 2007); Hourglass Transcripts (Burning Deck, 2001); Spelt, a collaboration with Myung Mi Kim (a+bend, 1999); Black Box Cutaway (Kelsey Street, 1999); PROSTHESIS : : CAESAREA (Potes and Poets, 1994; reissue Little Red Leaves, 2009); Taken Place (Reality Street 1993); Linen minus (Avenue B 1992); and Domino: point of entry (Leave Books, 1992). Many essays have appeared in literary magazines and scholarly journals. She was an associate editor of HOW(ever) a journal of modernist/innovative directions in women’s poetry and scholarship, on the editorial advisory board of the journal Avec, and the online journal HOW2. She received the New Langton Arts “Bay Area Award in Litertaure” in the Spring of 2000. She has recently collaborated with interdisciplinary artist Margaret Tedesco and sound artist Andrew Klobucar. Her play Motion Picture Home was performed as part of a poet’s theatre event in the winter of 2002.
Do you identify as female, gender queer, or trans? Are you interested in audio and music technology?
My mission is to provide an entry level understanding of live sound, music technology, and recording through hands on training. These workshops can be taken as a full series or as standalone workshops. These workshops are FREE! In order to foster a safe space for learning, you must identify as female, gender queer, or trans to attend these workshops. The field of audio engineering and music technology have historically been very male dominated. My hope is to advocate for those who are interested in learning about these subjects, but may feel uncomfortable learning in a male dominated environment.
A bit about me, my name is Chloe and I am currently the Music Technology Intern at The Evergreen State College. I interned as the Live Sound and Recording Intern at Northern in 2011, and have been working with Northern on and off for the past two years. I am a cisgendered female who is very excited about audio and music technology! I love sharing the knowledge that I have accumulated with others and facilitating empowerment through media and technology comprehension. I have been guest lecturing and teaching workshops relating to audio and media technology for the past two years to people of all ages, as well as providing audio and music technology consulting on a one on one basis. If you would like more information about me and what I do, feel free to visit my personal website!
Make your voice heard!
Learn to run live sound and set up and tear down a basic audio reinforcement system.
Learn advanced live sound and mixing techniques and how to utilize outboard mixing equipment!
Learn about signal flow, microphone types, and how microphones work!
Learn how to create DIY home recordings and live recordings!
Apr. 20: Intro to Live Sound 4-5PM
May 4: Advanced Live Sound 4-5PM
May 18: Intro to Recording 4-5PM
Visit the blogspot for this at lqtaudio.blogspot.com
If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to email me at email@example.com
I've been hiding Morty Comix around Washington and Oregon as sort of little art bombs for awhile. Also sending them via US mail at random to hither and yon. Most of them are in secret places in Thurston and Grays Harbor counties. Have you come across one? Occasionally I'll hear from someone who was found by one of these little guys. This is an experiment in comix distribution and I'm attempting to gather data.
This method of artistic expression, being a bit unusual, has forced me to develop my own code of ethics in where and how I place them. The dropoff and documentation of this event, which frequently has the elements of a caper, has become more interesting to me than the comic art product itself.
Although the Morty Comix series is over 30 years old, it continues to evolve and is more fun to produce than ever.
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Did you know that PSE is currently trying to slam a 6% rate increase through the UTC without public or professional input/comment?
By John Pearce
Background on the current PSE Proceedings before the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC):
There are three different cases, composed of five different “dockets” that have been consolidated into one proceeding.
First, there is the TransAlta proceeding, Docket UE-121373. Puget Sound Energy (PSE) agreed to buy power from the TransAlta coal power plant in Centralia through 2025. This is allowed by the legislation crammed through by PSE and TransAlta, with help from Sierra Club and NW Energy Coalition. The theory was that this would lead to the closing of the coal plant. Not so as discussed below.
Second, there is the “decoupling” proceeding, Dockets UE-121697 (electric) and UG-121705 (gas). These would create a mechanism by which PSE would be assured of a defined amount of revenue regardless of power sales. It is intended to make the company more receptive to energy conservation and customer installation of solar (both of which cause sales to go down).
Third, there is the “expedited rate filing” or “attrition” proceeding, Dockets UE-130137 and UG-130138. This would allow Puget to raise rates once a year with a very short review process to account for inflation in labor and specific improvements made to its system, rather than going through the full year-long rate case process.
Each of these three cases is controversial on a stand-alone basis. The “multiparty proposal” now before the WUTC combines them into a guano stew.
TransAlta Coal Plant
PSE agreed to buy 380 MW of power at a fixed price from the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia. Under the legislation, PSE is entitled to a “profit” on this, even though purchased power is normally flowed through at cost. Utilities earn a profit on their investment in “plants” like poles, wires, transformers, and power plants. Not on their “operating expenses” like labor, fuel, or purchased power.
The TransAlta contract is controversial for many reasons:
First, many believe that if the legislation had not passed, TransAlta would have shut it down by now, and the legislation is keeping it alive.
Second, PSE has no ability to “turn the plant down” to save fuel when there is lots of hydro or wind power; it pays a fixed price 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Third, TransAlta DOES have the option to turn it down when it can buy power cheaper. So, when spring runoff occurs, TransAlta can buy cheap power and re-sell it to PSE at the higher contract price. Without this contract, PSE could buy the cheap power and would be required to share the savings with customers under their “power cost adjustment” mechanism.
Finally, it’s a contract for “coal transition power.” Many of us want PSE to stop buying coal power.
PSE filed this contract for approval last fall.The WUTC eventually approved it, but gave PSE only about half of the “bonus” profit it wanted. PSE filed for “reconsideration” and has been trying to politically influence the WUTC.
The decoupling case is an effort by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) to change how utility rates are set in order to reduce utility incentives to sell more power. NRDC is a member of the NW Energy Coalition, and the NRDC Energy Project Co-Director is the witness in this case.
Normally, utility rates are set in a rate case, allowing recovery of the utility’s operating expenses plus a return on its capital investment. This sum, called the “revenue requirement” is divided by the sales to calculate the rate. The rate stays constant until the WUTC changes it. But if sales go up, the utility gets more revenue (and, normally, more profit). If sales go down, revenues decline. This makes utilities resistant to energy conservation and customer renewables.
Decoupling changes the formula. The Commission would set an allowed “revenue per customer” level for PSE. Each month, as the number of customers goes up, the allowed revenue would increase. Once a year, they would compare the “allowed” revenue to the “actual” revenue, and allow PSE to surcharge (or credit) the difference, depending on whether sales had been higher or lower. This removes the sales incentive. It still leaves a cost control incentive, because if PSE can reduce expenses (like, maybe, pay their executives less money, or gut their employee health insurance) then PSE would make more profit.
PSE originally objected to decoupling, because they said that their costs were rising, and the only way to keep their profits solid was to either file rate cases every year or increase sales. They literally testified that increased sales for electric vehicle charging was an important part of their business plan, and decoupling would take away that opportunity to increase their revenues.
PSE originally filed an approach to decoupling that solved their problem, but it created different problems. Eventually they settled on the current proposal, that lets the “revenue per customer” rise at 3%/year (electric) and 2.2%/year (gas). These are based on historical trends in their rates.
PSE proposed an expedited rate filing mechanism, better known as an Attrition Adjustment, which would let them raise rates in a simpler fashion than a rate case. The general idea is that SOME costs are going up, and everybody knows they are going up, so why should they have go through a long complicated rate case to get the money? The opposition position is that some costs are going down, and these should be offset against those that are going up.
The multiparty proposal of PSE, Commission Staff, and NW Energy Coalition is to roll these together.
a) PSE drops its request for reconsideration of the TransAlta decision, and accepts half as much bonus as they asked for.
b) The decoupling mechanism is approved, with a built in 3% per year increase for electricity (6% this year, then 3% a year after that).
c) Because they are getting 3% per year, PSE drops its request for a separate attrition mechanism.
What’s Wrong With This?
a) The TransAlta deal is wrong! PSE should be moving toward supplying Washington ratepayers with renewable energy. Instead, they are more dependent on coal. Further, the agreement with the Governor to close the plant in 2025 is only “triggered” if TransAlta signs 500 MW of long-term contracts, and the PSE contract is only for 380 MW. If there are no more contracts, then TransAlta is under no obligation to close the plant. Keeping PSE from stopping the plant when cheaper power is available means TransAlta gets more profit, ratepayers pay more cost, and Puget gets a bonus profit without a corresponding profit.
b) The decoupling deal is OK, but the 3%/year (electric) and 2.2%/year (gas) rate increases means rates will go up every year with no detailed review of whether it is justified.
It’s a stew of coal and assorted guano that tastes just as bad combined as the separate ingredients do individually.
Who are the Players?
PSE is a private utility that makes profit for its Australian shareholder, Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, Inc.
WUTC Staff is the analytical part of the agency. It is separate from the Commissioners, who are the judicial part. There is very limited interaction between them when a “case” is being put together.
NW Energy Coalition is made up of over 100 public interest, environmental, low-income advocacy, labor, clean energy business, and utilities that work together implementing a clean energy agenda. In this case, they are being led along by one of their members, the Natural Resources Defense Council. Their membership has not endorsed their position in this case.
Public Counsel is a branch of the Attorney General’s office that represents the public. They have opposed the TransAlta contract (mostly on cost to ratepayer grounds), are skeptical of decoupling, and oppose attrition adjustments that only consider things that are going up in cost without analyzing everything to see what is going down.
Industrial Customers of NW Utilities and NW Industrial Gas Users represent Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, and the like.They have are opposed to all three proposals.
Kroger is QFC and Fred Meyer grocery chains.They are lightly involved.
Energy Project is a group that represents low-income ratepayers.They are skeptical of all three parts of this.
What Should People Say?
1) The TransAlta deal costs too much. PSE has to pay the coal power price even when cheaper power is available from hydro and wind. Ratepayers pay more, and PSE and TransAlta shareholders get the money.
2) There is no guarantee the TransAlta plant will shut down, and without that guarantee, the entire basis of the legislation is being evaded.
3) The TransAlta deal makes PSE more dependent on coal. They should be investing in wind, solar, geothermal, tidal power, wave power, and energy efficiency instead.
4) A 3% rate increase per year is unjustified. In 2012, PSE earned more than its allowed return, sharply up from 2011. The big reason is that the cost of borrowing has come down, PSE has refinanced a lot of its debt at lower interest rates, and that brings costs down. The 3% annual increase does not consider this.
5) It was all negotiated in secret. The WUTC should NOT allow its staff to have secret meetings with PSE. The public should be allowed to participate.
It’s being rushed through the approval process. The WUTC needs to really examine the underlying basis for the proposed 3% per year increases, independent of the TransAlta and decoupling pieces.
They are cramming it down in a very quick proceeding, without giving Public Counsel and the industrial customers time for adequate analysis by experts who can then testify in front of the UTC.
We must bring sunshine to these backroom dealings. Attend the May 16th public comment meeting at 6 p.m. at the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission offices: Richard Hemstad Building, 1300 S Evergreen Park Drive SW, Olympia. Tell the UTC what you think about their secret negotiations and this outrageous “deal”.
Despite increased educational attainment, an older workforce and higher productivity, job quality has declined in the United States over the last 30 years. And despite substantial increases in the educational attainment and age of the US workforce over the last three decades, which are reflected in productivity, the quality of jobs in the United States as measured by wages and access to benefits has deteriorated sharply. The report, “Making Jobs Good,” considers the impact of five policies on job quality, in essence, “good jobs” and “bad jobs.” A good job is defined as one that (1) pays at least $19 per hour (in constant 2011 dollars) and (2) has employer-provided health insurance and (3) has some kind of retirement plan (either a traditional pension or a 401(k)-style plan). A bad job is defined as one that meets none of these three criteria, The policies considered in the report are universal health insurance, a universal retirement system (over and above Social Security), a large increase in college attainment, a large increase in unionization, and gender pay equity. These policy simulations yield intriguing results. For instance, the pay equity simulation shows that if women and men of the same level of education receive the same pay, the gender gap in the share of good jobs is all but erased. The policy simulations also demonstrate that increasing unionization appears to be substantially more effective than a comparable expansion of college attainment in increasing job quality in the economy. For all workers, and separately for men and women, increases in unionization consistently raise the share of good jobs more than similar-sized increases in college education. Given that increasing college attainment is a long and expensive process, and one that is likely to be much less effective for older workers, these findings suggest the importance of emphasizing unionization as much or more than college attainment as a key path to improving job quality. The report also shows that enacting combinations of these policies has a more significant impact than each individual policy. For example, a combination of universal health care and a universal retirement plan increase the share of good jobs by 20.8 percentage points. A universal retirement plan on its own would raise the share of good jobs by 9.6 percentage points, while universal healthcare would increase the share of good jobs by 4.7 percentage points. The authors note that restoring the link between economic growth and job quality will be a heavy lift. Over the last three decades, increased educational attainment and work experience alone have not been sufficient to prevent a decline in the share of workers in good jobs or an increase in the share of workers bad jobs. However, the simulations described here demonstrate that there are policies that—alone or in conjunction with other policies—can slow and perhaps turn around the fall-off of job quality in the US economy. —Center for Economic and Policy Research
(We’d love to pack the courtroom!)
--Scott Yoos Support Committee
The current threat of a major war in Korea is akin to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, when the US and the USSR nearly waged nuclear war. Peaceful coexistence was assured only after an agreement was reached for Russia to withdraw its missiles from Cuba and for the US to pull its own out of Turkey. In recent weeks, as a similar standoff has escalated in Korea, the US has sent B-2 bombers from Missouri and B-52s from Guam to fly up to the Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea. These flights are as close to a threat of a first strike—possibly a nuclear one—that the US can make. President Obama’s recent policy shift to an “Asian pivot” is perceived in North Korea as a direct threat to its existence. Before the Asian pivot, Saddam Hussein agreed to disarm, after which Iraq was invaded and he was killed. Gaddafi faced a similar fate after he destroyed his major weapons systems. North Korea is clearly interpreting these events as reasons not to disarm. The harder the US now presses North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, the more they feel menaced. In 1993, the US came quite close to bombing North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear plant. Harvard professor Ashton Carter publicly stated he was telephoned by the Pentagon and asked to assist them in determining bomb targets. Only the personal intervention of former President Jimmy Carter prevented a US first strike. Carter flew to Pyongyang, met Kim Il-sung (Kim Jong Un’s grandfather) and negotiated an “Agreed Framework,” according to which North Korea shut down Yongbyon and the US and its allies were supposed to supply fuel oil to the North. For decades now, North Korea has stated that it will forsake its nuclear weapons and rocket program if the US Senate signs a peace treaty to end the state of war. (The armistice of 1953 was only a cease fire.) Whether one believes them or not, isn’t diplomacy worth another attempt to diminish the threat of war? As the world’s preeminent military power, the US has a responsibility to prevent wars. One such means to do so in Korea would be for President Obama publicly to state that the US will not make a first strike against North Korea. Rather than seeking to reduce tensions, however, the US has ratcheted them up, and as a result, US companies will sell billions of dollars of missile systems to South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. President Obama has repeatedly stated that our main strategic partner in Asia is Japan, even as Japan presses territorial claims against China, both Koreas, Vietnam, and the Philippines concerning islands it took when the Japanese Empire expanded before the end of the second world war. Unlike Germany, which has apologized for Nazism, educated its citizens, and paid reparations, Japan has never apologized for the war, never properly explained its atrocities to its citizens, and refuses to express its regret to the more than 100,000 “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery. In fact, Japan has repeatedly refused to apologize to these women even when pressed by US congressional resolutions. In the long run, the US should consider multilateral alliances, rather than a preeminent one with Japan, in order to diminish regional tensions. In the past few days, Fox News and others have repeatedly called attention to that “nut” in North Korea who’s trying to prove himself. Yet Kim Jong Un is a mere figurehead in the world’s most Confucian society, where young people must respect their elders and listen to them. An aging military bureaucracy runs North Korea, not the young grandson of their “Dear Leader.” If we allow Kim Jong Un to be demonized while a major war breaks out, hundreds of thousands of people will perish in its first hours—no matter who is to blame. It is not too late for the Obama administration to change course and find a peaceful solution to this crisis—if that is what they want to do. The author is a professor of Humanities at Wentworth Institute of Technology and author of Asia’s Unknown Uprisings. He was a Senior Fulbright Fellow in South Korea in 2008. This article is reprinted with the author’s permission. George Katsiaficas
GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are a political hot topic. With a GMO labeling initiative on Washington’s voter ballot in November, we will hear a lot about it. Over fifty countries, including the European Union, either ban GMOs outright, or require labeling of foods containing them. Arpad Pusztai is a reputable UK expert in feeding studies. When he publicly shared preliminary results of his safety tests for GM potatoes, the EU decided to require labeling. In response, large corporations producing processed foods in the EU chose to use only non-GM ingredients. However, those same companies still put GMOs in their products in North America. We should have GMO-free food too! Because corporate interests are so politically powerful, the citizens of the U.S. are fighting first for labeling requirements. In 2012, the Washington State Legislature considered labeling bills, and private citizens swarmed Olympia for House and Senate hearings. Last year Californians voted on a labeling initiative. In 2013, it’s up to Washington’s voters. The real issue in the GMO debate Understanding the precautionary principle and the scientific method is important when considering implementation of anything that has a potential for risk. Let’s ask Wikipedia for definitions. “The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an act.” Basically this means ‘do no harm’. We are considering the wisdom of spreading GMOs around the world, and of consuming them as food. Do any aspects of doing so have the potential to cause harm? The burden of proof falls upon the individuals and the corporations who promote the spread the GMOs. The corporations need to prove that GMOs are safe, that they cause no harm. The scientific method is how we prove things. The scientific method is “a method or procedure consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” Scientists develop a hypothesis, a theory that they wish to prove. They perform experiments that clearly test the hypothesis. If even one experiment has results inconsistent with the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is false. The theory being tested is that GMOs are 1) safe to produce and to consume, and therefore that doing so causes no harm; and 2) that they are effective in solving several related problems: world hunger, crop yields, pesticide and herbicide use, and protecting the environment. What is it not being studied? When it comes to food for consumption by people, the ultimate criterion of safety is this. It needs to be proven safe for human consumption. That is why the FDA exists, why we have food safety and labeling standards. The following is the FDA Statement of policy on GMOs, since 1992. “The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.” As far as the FDA is concerned, GMOs are substantially equivalent to non-GMOs. This means the FDA considers GMO and non-GMO corn to be the same. That there is no difference between the plants. And that foods consumed by animals or humans impact health in the same way. Because of this assumption of substantial equivalence, the FDA does not require safety testing of GMOs. Industry voluntarily submits their own studies, but they are understandably biased. We can’t trust them to honestly report results. To our detriment, the FDA trusts industry and does not perform independent testing. In actuality, it is documented that FDA scientists were aware of the risks, before this 1992 policy was approved. They warned that GMOs could result in allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They said that extensive feeding safety studies should be conducted prior to approval of each individual GMO. Human feeding studies are not being done! There should be thousands of human feeding studies in the published literature. To my knowledge, there is only one published human feeding study [that was in the February 2004 issue of Nature Biotechnology] . In this small study, the genetically modified DNA section from GM soy was found inside the DNA of the gut bacteria of human volunteers—before the volunteers consumed the soy foods being studied. The gut bacteria had incorporated the DNA segment at some earlier time when those volunteers consumed GM soy! These DNA insertions continued to function in the gut bacteria, making GM soy proteins. Though this does not prove actual harm resulting from human consumption of GMOs, it does provide evidence that GMO soy is different from non-GMO soy, and that it affects our bodies differently. Industry argues that they have done safety studies. They perform animal studies. Animals are not humans. Their bodies respond differently, and they are not able to give verbal feedback of suffering. Even if every animal feeding study showed the absence of risk for animals, that is insufficient to prove safety for humans. Release of GMOs into our food supply began in the 1990’s. Since then, you, the members of the public, have been the lab rats for the ongoing GMO feeding experiment! Children and reproduction The people most likely to be negatively affected by the consumption of GMOs are children. Their rapidly growing brains and bodies are much more susceptible to harmful substances. Several animal studies (see Genetic Roulette) have shown altered structure and function of reproductive organs. A senior scientist from the Russian National Academy of Sciences fed female rats GM soy two weeks before they conceived, continuing through pregnancy and lactation. More than 50% of their offspring died within three weeks, compared with 10% offspring death for mothers who ate non-GM soy. The offspring of GM fed mothers were also smaller and more aggressive than normal. When the scientist tried to mate the offspring of the GM fed group, they did not conceive. French feeding study Recently there has been tremendous publicity about a [toxin] study conducted by a team of scientists led by molecular biologist and endocrinologist Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, co-director of the Risk Quality and Sustainable Environment Unit at the University of Caen. This was the first ever study to examine the long-term (lifetime) effects of eating GMOs. Rats fed [Monsanto's Roundup Ready] corn developed horrendous tumors. Read the paper here: http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm Of this study, Dr Michael Antoniou, molecular biologist at Kings College, London, and a member of the Committee for Research & Independent Information on Genetic Engineering scientific council, says: “This is the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats. It shows an extraordinary number of tumours developing earlier and more aggressively —particularly in female animals. I am shocked by the extreme negative health impacts.” Genetic Engineering Technology Biotechnology companies claim that genetic engineering technology is precise and safe. But actual studies show substantial risks and problems. Genetic engineering changes the DNA, the plant’s genetic blueprint. Nature fine tuned the DNA for each organism over the course of eons. How can we mess with the blueprints and still have viable organisms? Genetic engineering is imprecise, resulting in massive collateral damage to the plant’s DNA. One genetic modification may produce thousands of mutations. Doesn’t it make sense that there will be unintended consequences? These consequences impact the viability of the plants, and the nutritional qualities conveyed to animals or humans that consume them. Toxic substances may be produced, impacting the consumer. Any of these consequences could damage health. Genetic Roulette, by Jeffrey Smith, of the Institute for Responsible Technology is an excellent, well documented book. He references scientific studies that demonstrate a wide variety of risks inherent in the process of genetic engineering. I highly recommend this book for anyone wishing to understand the science. As mentioned above, the FDA was aware of risks before the FDA official policy on GMOs was approved. They said there was potential for allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. Genetic Roulette cites numerous feeding studies that showed negative impacts on animals. Hunger, crop yields & herbicides The sales pitch for genetic engineering hypes high GMO crop yields as the solution to world hunger. But the promised yields don’t materialize in real life. Yields may (or may not) be good when a farmer starts planting GMOs, but over time the yields fall. What could make a GMO crop fail? Genetic engineering produces massive collateral damage to the plant’s DNA blueprint. Resulting in plants that may struggle to thrive. Long term herbicide use contributes to plant failure. Plants need minerals to be healthy. RoundUp, Monsanto’s popular weed killer is the most commonly used herbicide on GM crops. It is extraordinarily effective at chelating minerals, making them unavailable to the plants. RoundUp makes the soil unhealthy, so it can’t adequately support plant life. Dr Don Huber is a soil scientist with decades of research focusing on the long term impacts of RoundUp on soil, plants, and animals. He explains it in easily understood language. An internet search for his name provides links to numerous interviews. With continued usage of herbicides over time, weeds become resistant to them. The amount of herbicide applied increases, and farmers turn to even more toxic herbicides. Bt corn and cotton Corn and cotton are genetically engineered to make Bt toxin. By itself Bt toxin is commonly used to kill insects. The toxin is produced by every cell of the plant, so biotech companies claim that pesticide application is not required. In the beginning, yields may be high and pesticide usage low. But over time, plant-produced Bt loses effectiveness and increased pesticide application is required. The film Unnatural Selection shows a host of Indian farmers whose livelihoods have been devastated by the cultivation of Bt cotton. They complain about the high cost of Bt seed, low yields and crop failures, and ineffectiveness of the plant’s pesticide. You see farmers with cotton plants looking quite unhealthy and showing very few cotton bolls. A farmer picks a boll of cotton and shows it to us, through the camera. There is a boll worm crawling on the cotton! This contributes to farmer suicides in India. Farmers are in debt (partly due to high costs associated with GM cotton cultivation), and with smaller yields than they had with non-GM cotton. Non-GM seed is no longer available for purchase. Frequently they commit suicide by drinking the pesticide! Indian farmers customarily allow their livestock (sheep, goats, buffalo) to eat non-GM cotton plants after the cotton is harvested. When they allow their animals to eat Bt plants, the animals die. Contamination of organic crops Well publicized is the case of Percy Schmeiser and other organic canola farmers from Saskatchewan. Their crops were contaminated by GMO plants blowing onto their land from neighboring fields. These farmers have lost their livelihoods, and in some cases, had Monsanto sue them for unlicensed usage of GM seed. Courts determined that Percy Schmeiser was guilty of violating Monsanto’s patent. But he was not charged damages, because he did not financially benefit from use of Monsanto’s seed. Now that GM Alfalfa is approved, I assume that a similar contamination methodology will be possible for alfalfa. All it takes is a couple of seeds being dropped (like from a truck), blown (the most common contamination mechanism for canola), or floated (on water) from one field to another. Genetically modified corn has been found in Mexico, though I believe that no GM corn has been intentionally planted there. All it takes is one dropped kernel that grows. Corn contamination also occurs another way. Pollen from GM corn can fertilize non-GM corn plants, producing GM kernels. An ear of corn can have mostly non-GM kernels and one or more GM kernels. Corporate money Corporations provided millions of dollars to influence public opinion and defeat Proposition 37, the GMO labeling initiative on California’s 2012 election ballot. Funding came both from biotechnology companies directly, and from manufacturers of processed foods who wish to avoid announcing the presence of GMOs in their products. These enormous multi-national corporations have absorbed smaller companie. Muir Glen and Cascadian Farms are subsidiaries of General Mills. Coca-Cola owns Honest Tea and Odwalla. Kellogg’s owns Kashi, Morningstar Farms, and Gardenburger. Smucker’s owns R.W. Knudsen, and Santa Cruz Organics. Dean Foods owns Horizon, Silk and White Wave. Each of these huge corporations contributed to defeating Proposition 37. If you choose to boycott them, Organic Consumers Association publishes a list. Fear of increased food cost This was a big argument used to defeat California’s 2012 labeling initiative. Biotech and food processing representatives argued that requiring labeling would increase the cost of food for consumers. Many Californians initially supported labeling, but voted no in the election. Industry spent millions—daily—on television advertising in California leading up to election day. Changing packaging and labels would not increase costs. The frequent changing of labels is a marketing strategy. Examples are the heart healthy, low fat, and sugar free claims plastered on our food products. If the industry-claimed consumer benefits of GMOs were proving to be actual benefits, then packages would proudly proclaim the presence of GMOs. What would increase costs? Requiring ongoing testing of finished products. Knowing this, my assumption is that the writers of Washington’s current initiative did not include such testing in the initiative. (The 2012 Washington legislative bills did not require testing, and I imagine the California initiative did not, but I do not know.) Increased food costs resulting from labeling requirements would be insignificant. Non-GMO project Some small companies voluntarily label their products as GMO free. Read labels and support them. There is an independent organization, the Non-GMO Project, to which companies submit products for labeling. Because they believe in the cause, companies voluntarily pay to join the project and conduct testing. Plus Non-GMO Project certification increases their sales. Precautionary Principle and Scientific Method Remember, the theory being tested is that GMOs are 1) safe to produce and to consume, and therefore that doing so causes no harm; and 2) that they are effective in solving several related problems: world hunger, crop yields, pesticide and herbicide use, and protecting the environment. There is much more than one piece of evidence showing the harm resulting from GMO production and consumption. Even without human feeding studies, that is clear. If the government continues to approve of the cultivation of GMOs, then scientifically conducted human feeding studies should be performed. We are not laboratory animals. The public Since GMOs are currently allowed in our foods, people deserve to be informed of their presence. The voice of the public should be taken into account. Our government is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The people demand labeling. Corporate interests spent many millions of dollars to defeat California’s Proposition 37, yet the margin of defeat was small. The organizations supporting passage of the labeling bill had a pitifully small funding pool, contributed by individual citizens and small private companies. Corporate money convinced enough people that labeling would increase the cost of their food. It’s Washington’s turn. We represent everyone this year. When people are informed, the decision is obvious. Educate each other and get out the vote. Sandra Lee gives educational presentations about genetically modified foods. She has been a health care provider in Olympia since 1992. She has a bachelor of science degree in Chemistry. However, it is her 10+ years of self-directed education in health and nutrition that she considers the most valuable. In 2011, she received training in giving presentations about GMOs from the Institute for Responsible Technology. She now lives in British Columbia and visits Olympia frequently. You can reach her at sandra@MiracleInspirations.com. Sandra Lee
The following is the speech Eli Sterling, the founder of the Procession of the Species, gave when accepting the Earth Day proclamation award from the Thurston Couny Commissoners. Good day, and thank you each, the Commissioners of Thurston County, for the honor of this Earth Day Proclamation and for the opportunity to share with you the presence of the 19th Procession of the Species Celebration. The intention of the Procession is to elevate the dignity of the human spirit by enhancing the cultural exchange between communities and the natural world… and to advance that exchange through the languages of art, music, and dance. Each year, as organizers, we are faced with this singular question: Does any of this color and pageantry truly make a difference on behalf of the natural world? There are two separate answers to this question. The first is explicitly expressed by the artist and sculptor, Mary Frank. During an interview on National Public Radio headlining a national retrospective of her work, Mary Frank, now at 90 years of age, was queried as to the purpose of art. “Art,” she responded, “has many purposes: To comfort the dead and to awaken the living, to know the migration seasons of birds and fish, and to know the human immigrations of the past and present. To be able to use experiences and transform them. To make the eyes of children widen. To feel the power of color and shape. To fill an unspoken hunger for community. To give courage, use the heart, to risk and never be afraid of tenderness or the absurd. To gather joy.” The second answer is no less explicit. In 2012, we witnessed the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s publication of Silent Spring highlighting the destruction of song birds due to the pesticide DDT. Yet, in the last several years, our spring, throughout the entire nation, has become even more silent due to the unlawful actions of the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company that defy comprehension. In 2012, the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company pleaded guilty to selling wild bird feed that was poisonous to birds, along with deceiving regulators by falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides. According to the EPA, Scotts added the pesticide Storcide to its wild bird feed products to prevent insect infestations while the product was in storage. The warning label on Storcide, a product that Scotts sells, specifically states that the pesticide is toxic to birds, fish, and other wildlife. Scotts sold the tainted bird feed for two years after it began marketing the product, and for six months after company employees alerted management to the danger posed by the pesticides (truth-out.org). Scotts Miracle-Gro poisoned their bird feed—a product intended to nourish song birds, in gestures of delight and care—as a means to preserving their market capacity to sell the product—not provide the care. So let’s do the math: Scotts Miracle-Gro sold 71 million “product units” over two years, and was fined $4 million dollars by the EPA. Even if they had been fined one dollar per unit, $71 million dollars, it is not difficult to imagine that they still would have maintained a substantial margin of profit. When nature does the math however, the calculations are even more brutal. Imagine a conservative calculation of one dead bird per unit sold. 71 million units of poison bird seed—71 million dead song birds. Silent spring. What is the worth of a song bird? $4 million dollar fine—71 million birds: six cents a bird. Silent spring. Back to the question of the relevance of the Procession— This year, Thurston County Solid Waste is creating a life-sized grey whale made of plastic bags, milk jugs, fishing nets, and other discarded plastics readily found in Puget Sound. As these plastics break down in the marine environment, they take on the appearance of a food source for marine life—a whale, a cormorant, a salmon, a dolphin come to that deceptive plastic-as-food as innocently as a songbird to a feeder of poison seed. Bits of plastic floating in Puget Sound have the same reverberations in the sea as pesticide in bird feed. What does the art and dance and music of the Procession have to do with our betrayal of this beyond-human world? Art keeps our sensibilities alive—it keeps our tenderness alive, and tenderness matters because its companion is fierce determination to protect beauty and innocence. Math and regulation alone will not hold our sensibilities for how we should engage the Earth and all that live upon it. Art and culture remind us who we want to be and how we want to live. Art “gives courage, invites us to use our hearts, to risk and never be afraid of tenderness or the absurd. Art gathers joy.” Thank you for recognizing the joy and art of the Procession as necessary responses to poisoned bird feed and plastics in the ocean; as a means for us to hold that we are a community where life on Earth matters. Eli Sterling is the founding director of Earthbound Productions and the Procession of the Species Celebration. He can be reached at (360) 705-1087, PO Box 7192 Olympia, WA 98507, or www.procession.org. Eli Sterling
For the past 18 years at the Olympia Procession of the Species, we animals have been silent witness to the joyful exuberance of our human counterparts. So very many of you—of all ages—have come together in playful abundance, animating the Community Studios, up to your elbows in multi-colored batik dyes, glue-gooey paper mache, chicken wire and rice paper, paints and glitter, creating us so that you can BE us. You have studied our bodies—what we look like, how we walk, swim, flutter and fly, slither, plod, stalk and tunnel. Some of you have taken the time to look into the many problems we have encountered as we attempt to share our planetary home with you. You have created a safe haven where we can join with you to celebrate Earth Day on the very streets of Olympia, Washington. Your drums announce our beating hearts and honor our joy at being alive on this, our only blue-green pearl-of-a-home. And now we come to tell you “Thank you!” Our gratitude for your excellent enthusiasm, your sparkling creativity, and your joyful embrace of life, brings grace into our lives. We carry Eli Sterling, our Procession Papa—the one who thought up this whole wonderful adventure—up high on our round, sticky, spiky, slick and sometimes nonexistent shoulders! We speak, too, for that which give us life—our sweet wet liquid homes, the broken-down nutritious rocks that hold our smallest cousins, our green sisters and brothers that suck in our carbon and breathe back sweet oxygen into our airy space, and the leader of the Procession—our fiery star who lights our way and sustains us every day. We have come, each year, in silence, for that is the way of the Procession. We do not toot our own horns. We do not ask to be put on pedestals. We do not say “Look at me! Bow before me! Worship me!” That is not our way. We come to remind you that we, like you, are temporary travelers on this rocky, watery home. We come to remind you that the true measure of life is in the Being of it. Not in its name, not in its celebrity, not in what it has accomplished, even. We come to remind you to join us in sincerely loving this home, this life we all share. So, while the Procession itself allows no printed words, which has kept it, for so long, immune to the commercial world, we have been honored this year with a questionnaire, asking us if there is anything we would like to say! So we of the species asked our humans—the Procession participants—if they would be so kind as to write down our answers and toss them into a colorful box left strategically placed at both studios. That Critter Questionnaire asked questions such as these: What is the name humans call you? Why is it important to you to be in the Procession of the Species? How’s your life on Mother Earth going for you these days? What are you celebrating this year? Anything you would like humans to know, change or do to make your life easier? And these were our answers: First, my questionnaire answer. "Your human word for me is ‘robin.’ I sing this year for Rachael Carson, and for so many in my whole family of songbirds who have been silenced by your pesticides. I celebrate their missing songs. Wake up! Our songs are asking you to Wake up! And if you listen closely, you will also hear us say ‘Cheerup! Cheer up! For it is your burdened heart that blinds you to the beauty all around you.” “I am called ‘wolf.’ I come to the Procession to show humans that animals really do matter. I celebrate endangered species because I am one myself, which makes life for us not so good right now. I mostly live out in the middle of nowhere and yet still some humans hate us. I’m hoping you will stop killing us just because you believe that silly story about the ‘big, bad, wolf!’ We love our mates for life. Can you say the same?” “Humans like to call me ‘dragonfly,’ maybe because I look a little like a dragon (although I am much smaller and less ferocious)! I wanted to join the revelers this year because I celebrate the fact that we dragonflies are still around, after hundreds of millions of your earth-years, and we are able to live all over the place--from cold and snowy to hot and dry places. You need to know that while we are still very prevalent, there aren’t as many of us as there used to be. Your pesticides are destroying our habitats. And that is sad because we can be your pesticides! We eat mosquitos and small annoying flies. We don’t bother you. In fact, we will fly away if you get too close. When we thrive, you need fewer chemicals--and this is healthier for all species!” “My fancy name is ‘chromodoris annae.’ Sometimes I am ‘nudibranch.’ But I like ‘sea slug’ best, although none of the names humans call me measure up to the colorful beauty that is mine! Just wait ‘till you see me slip-sliding down the street, celebrating the beauty of this world. It will be a joyful event...and yet...I am saddened as I watch the living space in my favorite home, my coral reefs, shrink and die. Stop, humans, I say! Stop using trawling nets that disrupt the sea floor!” “I’m known as ‘elephant,’ although I do not know why. I am happy to be in the Procession of the Species this year so that I can show people that there is more to life than just video games and television. Way more. You really need to get a life. And not only that, some of you need to get over your obsession with our tusks. I mean really, those crazy poachers want to hunt us down and kill us just so they can have some dollar bills in their hands? Just so somebody else can make piano keys and jewelry?” “Humans call me ‘scorpion.’ I know I can give you quite a sting. But really, all I want is to feel like I belong to a powerful, creative and positive collective--and when I join my Procession community, that is how I feel. It is an incredible and dynamic dance with humans, music and creative work toward good and loving goals. Mostly I would like humans to commit to treating each other better. That would help my world come back to a more natural and gentle balance.” “’Lion’. ‘Big cat.’ ‘King of Beasts.’ My power scares most humans half to death. Yet here I come, dancing down the street in the best community event on the planet! Celebrating hope, I am. Hope for a saner world. Hope that humans will stop burning down my forest so that they can raise their beef. Tasty as they are, they don’t belong in my forest!” “ ‘Slug.’ You all just call me ‘slug.’ And mostly I don’t get much appreciation from you folks. I live a slow life. Really slow. But tasty! Please keep on planting lettuce. Yep, more lettuce, I say. I vote for more lettuce...and way less salt.” “I am known as ‘deer.’ I move along the edges of the city, through the gardens and parks, as silently and carefully as I can, cautious and carefree. On Procession Day, I can dance in the streets and celebrate the full majesty of life under the wide open sky. Procession Day is a day when the balance between humans and other animals is restored, when we fall into right proportion and generous relationships of honor and delight, humility and pride. As for my life here on Earth, it’s increasingly difficult for me to find places away from humans--my meadows and woods are being swallowed by subdivisions and strip malls. So, my human cousins, please hold yourselves with humility, and live your lives awake to the joy of this green Earth.” So there you have it. Thanks for asking us what we see, feel and think! We hope you learned a thing or two. And we hope you will pass the word: Love this life and take care of it—all of it! Desdra Dawning writes for the Olympia Food Co-op Newsletter and Works In Progress. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University. Robin (Desdra Dawning)