Tag Archive | environment

Who owns Wikipedia?

Technically, there are two answers to this question.

The first is that “No one owns wikipedia” it is a crowd sourced encyclopedia with over 75,000 active registered editors from around the world, plus an uncountable number of unregistered editors who are all working together to try to make sure the information on Wikipedia is truthful and accurate.

The second answer is that this non-profit organization is owned by it’s 7 member board of trustees.  They are legally responsible for the wikipedia website and the collection of other Wiki Media projects which has sprung up around it.

But the “real” answer is more complex and a bit darker.

March Against Monsanto Dallas

March Against Monsanto Dallas

Five days ago i created the March Against Monsanto entry in wikipedia.  With a quarter of a million people signed up for this event, and possibly millions more likely to come, i was a bit surprised that no one had bothered to put it up on this popular free encyclopedia.  i was not surprised this morning when i got a message from wikipedia that my article had been proposed for deletion.

The case for deletion is pretty strong:

  • There is little media coverage for this event which was supposedly happening all over the world.
  • Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a newspaper. Articles need enduring notability to be included.
  • The article in wikipedia was created by someone with a conflict of interest (me)
  • News stories citing “millions” of participants seem to just be parroting the event organizers.

If you read the discussion about deleting the article there are thoughtful comments on both sides of the debate.  The current “vote” is 3 deleted and 6 keeps for the article.  In viewing the arguments and profiles of the people wishing to delete this article, i dont think any of them on are the take from Monsanto.

As much as possible, i try to avoid conspiracy theory thinking. Generally, i find it distracting, disempowering and at least somewhat fanciful (tho i do still fret about World Trade Center 7 collapsing).

No steel frame building has ever collapsed from fire alone - explosives are almost always involved.

No other steel frame high rise building has ever collapsed from fire alone – explosives are almost always involved.

But it would be foolish to think that Monsanto (and all large corporations) dont involve themselves in wikipedia monitoring and editing.  Looking at the “Talk” page on Monsanto article in Wikipedia reveals a couple of things.  There is lots of contention about the ill effects of Monsanto products.  Monsanto claims the scientific high ground currently, mostly because they are legally successful in blocking most studies of the round up ready product.  Certainly in the case of the entry on Monsanto in wikipedia, the post is owned by their legion of well paid writers, who are successful in keeping off most of the damning evidence from the wiki page (while there is quite a lot of it presented in the talk pages, which are view by well less than 1% of the people coming to the page.


But there is lots of contention over where or not the critiques of Vandana Shiva are worthy of entering in the article.  Mostly, they have been kept out – this does appear:

Critics, including Vandana Shiva, said that the crop failures could “often be traced to” Monsanto’s Bt cotton, and that the seeds increased farmers’ indebtedness, and argued that Monsanto misrepresented the profitability of their genetically modified cotton, Bt Cotton, causing farmers to suffer losses leading to debt.[236][237][238][239][240] In 2009, Ms. Shiva wrote that Indian farmers who had previously spent as little as 7 rupees per kilogram were now paying up to Rs. 17,000 per kilo per year after switching to BT cotton.[241] More recently, in 2012 the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) stated that for the first time farmer suicides could be linked to a decline in the performance of Bt cotton, and they issued an advisory stating that “cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.” [242]

When we look at GMO effects on mice, we dont like what we see

When we look at GMO effects on mice, we dont like what we see

So years back a friend of mine who was an expert in cyborgs expressed his frustrations with wikipedia.  He had tried a number of times to correct the article on cyborgs, only to have his changes reversed and errors re-introduced.  Further the error recidivist was unwilling to communicate with him about the switch.  This left my friend feeling frustrated and hopeless that wikipedia would ever have the entry right.

i saw his some months back and asked how he was doing with wikipedia these days.  He replied he now makes part of his grad students work, maintaining and correcting the cyborg entry.  As for wikipedia he said “i love it now, because i own it.”

i have to wonder for how many pages does Monsanto feel the same way.

[Update:  The “vote” to delete the article is clearly swinging to keeping the article. With 15 keeps to 3 deletes at the time of this posting.]

The Revolution Next Door

Nuclear boosters and most power utility executives are fond of telling us that renewable power can’t fill the need for reliable electricity and its costs are too high.  The graph below is telling because it shows that the path being blazed by Germany is actually representative of the entire European continent.  Specifically, newly installed capacity of wind and solar far exceed all other fuels.  And that even with record low natural gas prices, over half of the amount of new installed capacity in gas was decommissioned last year. Despite dire warnings of increased coal burning, the amount of decommissioned plants well exceeds new installed capacity.  Little new nuclear went on line and a fair amount was pulled from the grid (almost all this year from Germany, but with many more countries likely to close them in the coming years).  There are only 4 reactors currently under construction in all of Europe – excluding Russia.

What Europe is doing with its power mix

What Europe is doing with its power mix (EU 27)

Source http://www.ewea.org/fileadmin/files/library/publications/statistics/Wind_in_power_annual_statistics_2012.pdf

And while it is not as sweeping, there is good news inside the US about California’s progress in supporting local, decentralized solar power for economic classes that are not at the very top of the scale.  One of the leading non-profits working to provide lower coast solar installations is Grid Alternatives.  Which uses volunteers and local staff to install home based renewable solutions (especially solar) at low rates.  They have completed 2,000 home systems in their first 2 years.

State wide programs for single family and multiple family housing units being converted to solar are receiving increased attention and funding.  And with a bit of luck we can have our national energy mix shift like our smart friends in Europe have already figuring it out.

You are never to retro to go solar

You are never to retro to go solar

Climate Heroes

Kassia, Darla, Mac, Hidarius, Adder at Keystone XL protest

Kas, Darla, Mac, Hidarius, Adder at Keystone XL protest

It was a state of the art liberal protest.  There were no planned arrests at this action, to make it as accessible and low risk as possible.  Celebrates had been arrested the week before.  There were 34 people who got arrested after this big march of 45K participants.  

Nick "Taco" Stracco is interviewed by PBS. He carried a home made sign illustrating the threat that the Gulf Coast faces from sea level rise.








What made it state of the art were the websites for the planning and the giant TV screens at the base of the Washington Monument.

What made it liberal was the frequent appeals by the speakers to patriotism and American ingenuity.  There is nothing particularly American about climate change, this is a global problem.  

Forward on Climate And while leadership from the US would be great, we could be working on this from a non-nationalistic angle.  

But we are not – or at least the Sierra Club and 350.org are not, despite the Sierra Club’s recent historic decision to drop their policy against civil disobedience.

And for this protest, they are using all the tools of a classical domestic political campaign.  Senators spoke at the event.  The big call was for Obama to keep his promises.

I spoke with lots of people on the march.  I spoke to folks from Denton, Texas who are getting fracking banned locally and planning to appeal to the state Supreme Court to defend it.  I spoke to people from Wisconsin, who came 2 days in buses with 160 people, despite them having neither fracking nor Keystone issues at play.  I talked to students from Unity College which was the first to divest from dirty fossil fuels.  Brett Levin (right), a graduate of Tulane and former president of Green Club.
The bigger issue of climate change being a perhaps inescapable side effect of industrial capitalism was not a topic for discussion.

Climate Change Strategies

i love Beatrice, especially when we disagree.  She recently went to Larry Kramer’s Facebook Page and read the speech he gave that sparked the AIDS group ACT UP.

“Kramer said:** “If my speech tonight doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If what you’re hearing doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men will have no future here on earth. How long does it take before you get angry and fight back?”**

And Beatrice asks “Where is our Larry Kramer? to fight to save our Biosphere, to take on big oil.”

She found Kramer’s anger and passion compelling and believes that climate change needs a similar enraged and dedicated hero.


ACT UP logo – and compelling political message

i am less convinced.  i certainly dont want to stop such a person from stepping forward, and i will get arrested and a non-violent climate change action faster than most people will (and already have).  But the issues are so different and the forces which need to shift are not at all the same.

In climate change we are fighting big oil, big coal and to a lesser extend nuclear.  These are rich, powerful entrenched interests which are willing to do lots of legal and illegal things to stop us.  With AIDS we were fighting a priorities battle.  Would medical resources be spent on dealing with this epidemic?  For the first many years the entrenched bureaucracy said “no”.  And Kramer gang was extremely effective in changing this, they were relentless, they got arrested repeatedly, they dogged political candidates and bureaucracies until they finally caved.

bush on climate change as junk science

Big oil wont cave.  They have extremely effectively used a similar type of disinformation campaign that the 1% have used to convince working class people that poor people are the problem.  Rush Limbaugh is pitching the idea that the heat index is a government conspiracy to convince us of the existence of climate change.  Climate change was not mentioned once in the presidential debates, this is the first time it was left out since it first showed up on the political scene in 1984.  But the very longevity of the issue works against the sense of immediacies that many of us activists feel about it.

This is part of the problem

This is part of the problem

In the long Facebook thread/debate on where is the Climate Change Kramer and do these tactics work there was the commonly heard call for the need for big actions.  People love to call for big actions. There issue is important, lets get a million people who agree in Washington to protest for it and that will change things.  Organizing big actions is extremely difficult and expensive.  I am not at all saying it should not be done, i am just saying it is not easy and we need to look at what it takes to make it work.  I wrote this about it:

Let’s talk about what it takes to create big actions, who has done it successfully in the last decade. We had big actions around the Bush II war in Iraq, which had an immediacy that i dont see a parallel to with climate change (which we have been talking about as a serious problem since before 1992 and the Rio Summit). We have had some big demonstrations for women’s reproductive rights – this again feels very immediate to many of the women and men involved. Perhaps the model is the pre-9/11 anti-globalization movement. Starting in Seattle in 1999 and the subsequent World Bank/IMF demonstrations and the Quebec City FTAA demo – we got tens to hundreds of thousands of people out for a very abstract issue, not very immediate at all. What made globalization protests work? Until they were destroyed by the “you are with the terrorists or you are with the US” rhetoric of the Bush administration post 9/11. For me this a more compelling organizing parallel than ACT UP which was incredibly immediate to a pretty small group of people.

Part of the argument in this thread was about does political change happen via “throwing the better party” or “harnessing peoples rage”.  And while the ACT UP folks definitely harnessed rage, it is clear from some of the reading i have done that the cohesion of the group was that the meetings has a better party aspect to them.

This is one of the most vexing issues of our time.  It is time to be brilliant about it.  What ar eyour thoughts?

And in this case, i am inclined to believe them

And in this case, i am inclined to believe them

An excellent link on how there is not science to support the denires.

India Bans GMO crops

Vandana Shiva is a hero of mine.  So i was doubly pleased to get an email from her today.  It was not personal, we have never met and i have not even seen her speak live.  [Tho here is her recent TED talk on the food crisis and solutions.], but i was happy none-the-less to know that some group which she works with has me on their mailing list and thus i am getting stuff from her.

Vandana Shiva on Corporations and their danger

More important than my ego gratification was the content of her message, which said that her group has petitioned the Indian Supreme Court and they have ruled in her favor banning the release of GMOs.  This is not forever and for always, but until at least long term studies can be done on rats and there is a regime in place for controlling the releases and selecting the sites which releases are made from by the government.  This is a significant win.

What is especially encouraging about this ruling is that it sites the precautionary principal as central to its decision making.  The precautionary principal is:

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 the action.

[from wikipedia on precautionary principal]

This of course is not what Monsanto wants.  What they prefer is the world continues to be their lab and that they can continue to release things they are convinced are safe (or at least are likely to be profitable) and “let’s not worry too much about the side effects, they will sort themselves out.”

One of the most important conversations of my life was in Kiev at the Chernobyl 10th anniversary which i was helping to organize.  American inventor and intellectual Amory Lovins was explaining to German Green Party leader Joschka Fischer the idea of “risk technologies” .  That there were a certain class of technologies, including nuclear power, nanotechnology, genetic engineering – where the unknown possibilities of on going and catastrophic dangers were so great that the state had to strictly regulate them or prohibit them altogether.  That perusing these new technologies often represents the wrong way of thinking about global problems altogether and instead we should be implementing known proven technologies with well understood impacts.

From Chernobyl plus 10 fingerbook

Fischer was already both the leader of the German Green party and anti-nuclear , later he became the foreign minster and vice Chancellor. He found Lovins presentations on these other technologies compelling.  But it is one thing to convince a popular and prominent green of these ideas and quite another to convince a national supreme court that they need to intercede and prevent businesses from doing business as unusual.   Shiva and her group have attained this and should be applauded for it.

This ruling is timely, because a recent French study has shown that Monsanto’s genetically modified Roundup Ready corn induces cancer in rats feed this corn.  These were rats of the same type Monsanto used to get permission for the release of Roundup Ready corn, but Monsanto tested them for only 90 days.  The French study tested them for 2 years.

Significantly, the  precautionary principal is part of the 1992 Earth Summit accords, which the US refused to sign, but nearly every other major industrial country agreed to this treaty.  We can only hope these other countries will follow India’s lead.


More important that Fukushima

At the one year anniversary the mainstream media will pull out various stories about the triple meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactors.  But what i am guessing is we will never hear another word in the MSM about two near meltdowns which happened in the US in Nebraska last summer at the Fort Calhoun reactor.

In late June of last year heavy rains flooded the Missouri river and put both the Fort Calhoun and Cooper reactors in danger.  The air space over both plants was restricted with no clear reason to my thinking except to minimize the number of pictures like the one above from hitting the airwaves and newspapers.

There are several reasons why Fort Calhoun is more important than Fukushima in my thinking.  The first is that the exact same thing could easily happen in Nebraska this year or worse with heavy rains.  And climate shifts are increasing the probability of this every year.  The second is that Fort Calhoun and Cooper are not some far off country on the other side of the world, where most Americans have never been and many can’t even find on a map.  People have relatives in Nebraska, they have driven through it.  Fort Calhoun is 20 miles from Omaha.  Third is that it did not take a 1 in 10,000 year earthquake and tsunami for this accident to happen.

We got lucky at Fort Calhoun.  Fortunately the reactor was down for a fuel change when the flooding started.  Fortunately, it did not keep raining the small amount more it would have taken to completely overwhelm the stations after the make shift berms which had been placed around it broke.

And because we are hiding from Fort Calhoun and looking instead at Fukushima, we are pretending that the “lessons learned” from the triple meltdown will enable us to continue to operate dangerous reactors in this country.  The real lesson learned is we should be phasing nuclear power out, like Japan, Mexico, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Venezuela, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands have done or are doing.  The world is souring on nuclear power it is time for the US to stop being blind as to why.