Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stop the Serengeti Highway!!


I've written about this issue previously of the proposed [disastrous] idea of a highway through one of the last strongholds of wildlife anywhere on earth: the amazing Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The campaign to Save the Serengeti is going strong and you can follow and support the efforts to preserve this World Heritage Site, natural treasure by going to the website listed below. In the meantime, it is satisfying to see that the issue is getting traction in the mainstream media. Here is Richard Engel of NBC Nightly News on the subject with some great video:



Please visit Serengeti Watch for information and ways you can help to save the precious Serengeti.

Related Posts:
Save the Serengeti from Death Highway
Tanzania: Serengeti National Park

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Say Goodbye to Caribbean Coral?


From NTD Television.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jamaica Blog Awards



Labrish Jamaica has been nominated in the Best Overseas Blog Category of the first annual Jamaica Blog Awards.  If you enjoy this blog, please consider voting for it.  Voting takes place until January 3, 2011 and you can vote once in each category every 24 hours.
Link to vote here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas wherever you are...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How to Wrap a Cat for Christmas

Love this:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Elephants Need Our Help Now

Across Africa and Asia, elephants are under great threat. The following alert and petition comes from the Wildlife Conservation Society:
Throughout Africa and Asia, elephants are being slaughtered and their homelands are being destroyed at alarming rates.

With their massive size, long lives and strong sense of community, elephants have captured our imagination and inspired us for centuries.

Slaughtered for their precious ivory tusks and confined to ever-shrinking habitats, these ancient symbols of wisdom and family bonds are facing severe threats today.

Nothing less than our biological heritage is at stake.

Congress will be voting soon on some extremely important pieces of funding legislation for international conservation. Now is the time to let your lawmakers know that you want the U.S. to help this magnificent species.

Agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) provide critical support to international monitoring and anti-poaching efforts, and help to range-state governments to establish new parklands and preserves to protect key habitats – exactly the kind of work we need to do and expand if we want to ensure a future for threatened species including elephants. While a miniscule part of the budget, this support provides a potentially lifesaving opportunity for these charismatic and magnificent giants.

Congress will be setting the budget for these agencies very soon – and before they vote they need to hear from you.

Already, conservation efforts overseas, backed by our government, have helped pave the way for significant progress in countries including:

• Myanmar – Through the continued deployment of Elephant Protection Units and increased monitoring and training of local personnel in the Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve, the USFWS Asian Elephant Conservation Fund backed efforts have been able to reduce the threat of illegal captures of wild elephants.

• Indonesia – As a result of negotiations between the Indonesian government and the U.S., Indonesia is freeing up $30 million to restore tropical forests that elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans call home.

• Gabon – A study in Central Africa showed that forest elephants avoid crossing roads at all costs, as these highly intelligent animals now associate roads with danger. The findings will allow development engineers to help plan future roads that are less disruptive to wildlife movement patterns.

Partnerships like these are key if we're going to save elephants – but they depend on adequate support from the United States as a leader in the conservation of elephants and so many other species.

With your help, we can send 60,000 letters to Congress and make sure the U.S. reaffirms its global leadership by expanding support for conservation efforts around the world.



The U.S. Is one of the world's largest consumers of ivory. Illegal ivory is brought in via souvenirs, smuggling operations and the internet. That makes the U.S. one of the major drivers of elephant poaching in Africa.

Protections under the Endangered Species Act are riddled with loopholes, allowing the ivory trade to flourish in America and threatening Asian and African elephants in the wild.

Help us end illegal ivory trade in the U.S. and save elephants. Tell President Obama to reform U.S. ivory trade regulations. Sign Petition Here.

A recommended book on elephants is The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Listening to the Silence

I became familiar this year with the work of Gordon Hempton, an audio ecologist who has written about the vanishing silent spaces and why we need to reclaim them. His book One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Quest to Preserve Quiet, tracks his search for those places where there is no man-made noise, only the sounds of the natural world - what Hempton refers to as "natural silence."

The following is a little response to my own love and appreciation for silence and natural silence:
I can feel the silence in my house mostly at night. Sometimes I’ll go and lie down on my bed to read, but I’ll take a moment- and listen. There is the soft whirr of the heat coming up from the vent; a knocking sound occasionally which sounds like someone closing a door is the basement door shifting with the movement of air in the house; and occasionally, the sounds off the icemaker in the fridge spitting out more ice in its bucket.

But beyond those regular noises, the house falls into its still state and rhythm, and I can slip into a peace with it. It’s not the blessed natural sounds of being in the African bush. It’s not the dry silent desert savannah of Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania where the only sounds are the wind passing through the scraggly branches of the prickly acacia trees, and the clicking sound of goat hoofs stumbling over the rocks, or thee Maasai herders switching sticks to keep them in line as they pick their way over the dusty hillside foraging for the odd grass or edible bush.

It’s not the rustling sound of the dik diks, tiny antelopes scrounging in the hedges near the safari camp, or the mournful cooing of the ground doves that seems like the most common choral refrain all over Africa.

It’s not the frantic calling of the male weaver birds as they beckon the females, showing off their elaborate nests hanging like grassy Christmas ornaments from the trees.

It’s not the low groans of the lions calling in the middle of the night from across the river.

It's not the grunts and chewing of the gazelles as they graze on the Serengeti grasses, or the sound of the flicking of the cheetahs tails as they watch and wait for opportunity.

The sounds in my house don’t come near to these graceful natural sounds from the marvelous orchestra of the African bush. But on those nights when I lay in bed, with the lights on, and I’m about to pick up the book to read, cats snuggled by my side, and if I pause and notice the sounds of the house, and perhaps a light rain is softly falling outside, beyond the sounds, the silence is there, waiting, always waiting, to be enjoyed.


For more on Gordon Hempton, read Newsweek's article here and his website here.

Race to Nowhere Documentary on America's Education System

I was struck today by the write-up in the New York Times on this new documentary on America's education system. This documentary was made by a concerned parent because of the stress and anxiety that she saw in her kids. It looks like a must-see for anyone involved in the education system in this country.

From the film's website:
Director Vicki Abeles turns the personal political, igniting a national conversation in her new documentary about the pressures faced by American schoolchildren and their teachers in a system and culture obsessed with the illusion of achievement, competition and the pressure to perform. Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

Race to Nowhere is a call to mobilize families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sugarbush Dog Groomers

Just two fun loving labs, River and Trout, rocking the winter wonderland. Background music by Jamaican Lee Scratch Perry.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Message to Mr. President - Geoffrey Philp

Jamaican born writer Geoffrey Philp delivers a compelling message in words and images to President Obama:

Happy Chanukah!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Blue Lagoon Restoration, Jamaica: A Sustainable Community Development Project


Blue Lagoon in Portland is one of Jamaica’s most tranquil and striking places of natural beauty. The largest of Jamaica’s spring-fed lagoons, the crystal clear waters of the lagoon change color from turquoise to sapphire to azure blue depending on the light and time of day, a result of its great depth of approximately 180ft. A favorite spot for swimming and diving, and a hideaway for the jet-set crowd who flocked to Port Antonio in years past, this enchanted natural area is in need of environmental protection. Renewed efforts are underway to have it included as a ‘National Heritage Site’ as designated by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and the Blue Lagoon project has become the catalyst for a new initiative to help promote sustainable community development in the parish of Portland. It is also the first step towards possibly pursuing the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for this jewel of the Jamaican landscape.

Early in 2009, Jamaican Adrienne Joan Duperly was dismayed at the sight of construction garbage piled up by the beach at Blue Lagoon. Her desire to do something to better the environment of Blue Lagoon and assist the community to preserve this special place, led her to partner with Dr. Warren Flint, a sustainability specialist who has worked extensively in assisting communities in the United States and internationally to develop sustainable community projects. Together they will lead the Blue Lagoon Restoration Project taking place in November 2010. They have already done significant research work investigating the potential for sustainable community development in Portland. They plan to conduct a series of assessment meetings with local stakeholder groups in Portland and Kingston and are inviting all individuals and groups who have an interest in this project to participate. Working in co-operation with the Executive Director of Jamaica National Heritage Trust, Laleta Mattis-Davis, they will also be engaged with other Government agencies. On November 20, 2010, they will bring together key stakeholder groups and develop strategies for advancing sustainable community development projects at the Blue Lagoon Summit taking place at Goblin Hill Conference Center. The stated intent for the summit is:

The overall intent of this [Blue Lagoon Restoration] Summit will be to promote a regional economy that binds communities together and keeps people and place healthy while everyone has the opportunity for earning a family living wage and enjoying an acceptable quality of life. We believe the outcome of our assessment effort will be a catalyst for change to advance Blue Lagoon National Heritage Marine Site declaration and to enable pursuit of UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for this coastal area which is so important in enhancing the tourism economy. 

Simply put, the vision for sustainable community development in Portland would encompass economic development to improve the lives of local residents while restoring and protecting the environment. Regrettably, many of Jamaica’s great coastal natural assets have been degraded from shoreline overuse, beach erosion, reef over-fishing and pollution – all examples of possible effects of “unsustainable” development and the lack of taking into account the needs of the environment. For example, in Negril, beach erosion caused by an excess of hotel developments on the fragile ecosystem is a very grave concern. The mangroves of the Great Morass have been significantly reduced and pollution has caused die-off of seagrass and coral reefs. Many other Jamaican coastal sites are also under threat from similar pollution and shoreline overuse threats.

Portland is the one parish in Jamaica with an abundant amount of sites of great cultural and natural heritage that has so far escaped from the sort of over-development seen in Montego Bay, Negril and along the rest of the North Coast. While there are hotels, guest houses and villas, they are small in scale which has allowed the parish to retain its great sense of natural beauty unscarred by large developments. Residents of Portland along with the Jamaica Environment Trust and other concerned Jamaicans have been engaged in other efforts to protect their environment from over-development and retain the unique natural charm of the parish. The recent campaign to prevent the building of villas on Pellew Island is an example of this engagement. The Portland Parish Council’s decision in February 2010 to reject the proposal to build the villas was a rare environmental victory in Jamaica and one that garnered the approval of many local residents.

Portland’s iconic natural and cultural sites include Blue Lagoon, Folly Point, Boston Beach, Reich Falls, Frenchman’s Cove, Long Bay, Pellew Island, Winifred Beach, Somerset Falls, Rio Grande Valley, Nanny Town and San San Beach. Portland tends to draw tourists who are looking for alternatives from the all-inclusive mega-resort type of experience. It is the ideal setting to explore new models of eco-tourism and projects that will bring renewed vitality and economic support to the local communities. The Portland Ecotourism Art Community Endeavour is one organization that has already been offering ecotourism activities in the area with bird watching tours and excursions to cultural sites.
Several sites in Portland are already given the distinction of being Jamaica National Heritage Sites including the Titchfield Peninsula, Folly Point and Nanny Town. It is entirely appropriate that Blue Lagoon should be seriously considered to be designated a Jamaica National Heritage Site. With this distinction it would take its rightful place along side other great places of natural beauty in the island such as the Blue Mountains.

The long-term vision to eventually have UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for Blue Lagoon would be an enormous boon to Portland and a great asset for the country as a whole. World Heritage Site designation brings an elevation of status and international recognition to sites that are uniquely important to the world community in terms of cultural and natural heritage. While Jamaica does not currently have any UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, the Underwater City of Port Royal and the Seville Heritage Park are on a “tentative” list.

The Blue Lagoon Restoration project comes at a time when Jamaicans are more than ever concerned with protecting the environment. The recent Coastal Clean Up of beaches in September saw an unprecedented amount of people volunteering their time to clean up beaches around the island of pollution and waste. The residents of Portland will have an opportunity to join in these forward-looking efforts as they gather to form a collective vision and plan to develop their community in sustainable ways. It will take commitment and a willingness to collaborate with each other; however Portlanders have shown that they can do this. They live in one of the most pristine parishes of Jamaica, a beacon of beauty that casts a spell of enchantment on all who visit. Copyright©Kathy Stanley
Protected by Copyscape Online Copyright Search
For more on the Blue Lagoon project, please see the following website:
Blue Lagoon Blog

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ode to Fall

I have always loved the crisp days of fall, brilliant yellows and golds, crimson leaves on the trees, walking through the crunchy fallen ones that blanket the ground. The trees whose limbs, now unadorned, stand ready to surrender, stripped by nature’s fierce force, to enter winter’s cold grasp. I was not born into the seasons, but one cannot be but inspired by the change of them. Even though the cold and damp are unpleasant at times, there is something magical and new each year for me when fall is here in full force, poised on the brink of delivering us into winter. And so I salute this turning of the seasons, this time of thanksgiving for the bounty of the earth. May it inspire and nurture us for the short days and long nights that lay ahead.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Miami Book Fair International - Caribbean Programs

Courtesy of Geoffrey Philp's Blog, here is the line-up for Caribbean Programs at the Miami Book Fair being held November 14 - 21, 2010:

The 27th edition of the nation’s finest and largest literary gathering, Miami Book Fair International, presented by the Florida Center for the Literary Arts (FCLA) at Miami Dade College (MDC), will take place November 14 - 21, 2010, at the college’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami.

Scheduled Caribbean Programs:

Saturday, November 20 at 10am in Room 3314
Panelists: Michele Voltaire Marcelin, Ruth-Miriam Garnett, Diana McCaulay and Mervyn Taylor

Saturday, November 20 at 11:30am in Room 3314
Panelists: Gideon Hanoomansingh, Merle Hodge, Earl Lovelace, Selwyn Cudjoe
1970: Black Power Revolution, 1990 Coup d’├ętat (Trinidad), Grenada occupation 1983

Saturday, November 20 @ 3:30 pm. Room 3315 (Building 3, 3rd Floor)
Presenting will be Heather Russell & Donna Weir Soley

Sunday, November 21 at 2pm in Room 7106.
To present Earl Lovelace: Is’ Just a Movie, Norberto Fuentes and Mark Kurlansky.

Sunday, November 21 @ 1:00 pm. Room 3410 (Building 3, 4th Floor)
Geoffrey Philp reads from DUB WISE.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

America's Choices

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Crossing Paths With POTUS: Obama in Portland, Oregon

Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and InheritanceDreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance was my introduction in early 2008 to Barack Obama. His story of exploring his identity in the multi-cultural setting of Hawaii was poignantly and beautifully captured. I love a good memoir and this was a great one.

So naturally I wanted to go and see him speak when he was here in Oregon in April 2008 when he inspired 75,000 people at Waterfront Park, the largest crowd in his presidential campaign. Alas, I was getting on a flight to the Virgin Islands just when he arrived so I missed his speech. But he followed us to St. Thomas, taking his family for a weekend Easter vacation that coincided with my visit. Indeed, he played golf a few minutes away from where I was staying and damn! - we just missed him one afternoon on the way to the beach! We vacationed in Hawaii a year ago, staying in the small beach community of Kailua, ½ mile from where the President and his family spend their Christmas vacations. Fast forward to this year and I was in the Los Angeles airport in April when I caught sight of Air Force One landing to bring him to an event in L.A. Missed you again Barack!!!

Well, last night, the stars were in alignment and I was at the Oregon Convention Center to see President Obama give one of his electrifying speeches as he stumped for the next Governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber.

The hall was packed with the enthusiastic progressive crowd that predominates in this city. Organizers expected 5,000 and 10,000 showed up to demonstrate that there is no lack of enthusiasm in this mid-term election here. Kitzhaber is fighting a tight race against former basketball player Republican candidate Chris Dudley and Portlanders are engaged in this election. A Sarah Palin look-alike strolled through the line-up to get inside drawing laughs as she said her “you betchas,” and the crowd was happy and excited as we patiently waited for hours for the doors to open. Once inside, toddlers played with Kitzhaber signs, music blared and campaign workers revved up the crowd to build the excitement. China Forbes of the great Portland jazz group Pink Martini sang a beautiful rendition of The Star Spangled Banner to kick it off. After a few short speeches the crowd went crazy when popular junior Senator of Oregon Jeff Merkeley took to the stage accompanied by senior Senator Ron Wyden and Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and David Wu.

The debonair, former emergency room doctor and two term former Governor of Oregon John Kitzhaber then took to the stage wearing his signature sports coat, white shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots. He was wildly cheered by the crowd that included many contingents of union workers, teachers and firemen. Kitzhaber highlighted the choices Oregonions face in this election and then introduced the man of the hour, President Obama. With U2 blaring in the background, the President made his way through the crowd to the stage with the whole room erupting in cheers and screams of support. The President started by saying he was glad to be back in Oregon – he referenced the support he received here in 2008 and the large crowd that came to see him at Waterfront Park. He said that his best friend from high school lives in Eugene, Oregon and is a Ducks fan. (University of Oregon football team) and that he’s always getting emails about how the Ducks are doing. However, he said, his brother-in-law coaches the Beavers in Corvallis, Oregon (Oregon State University football team). Of course all of that drew more cheers – Oregon loves their football and the teams have devoted fans that makes for a ‘Civil War’ rivalry that plays out each year in the state. Obama said he’s got the state covered.  It was a great speech, but I'll let you hear some of it for yourself:



Friday, October 15, 2010

Caribbean: Flooding Events Increase With Speed Up of Global Water Cycle : A Blog Action Day Post

 I am pleased to be joining today in the Blog Action Day initiative where over 4,000 blogs from 130 countries, reaching over 30 million readers, will be writing about the issue of water.
Flooding in Havendale, Kingston Jamaica Sept 2010
We have been inundated with the topic of water this year. In Jamaica and the Caribbean, who could forget that the region was experiencing the worst drought ever for the first 5 months of this year? Fast forward 5 months and it would easy to forget the drought. Jamaica was inundated a few weeks ago from devastating flooding from the effects of Tropical Storm Nicole: a perfect example of the extremes in weather fluctuations that have been predicted all along by climate scientists. In the words of one resident of the parish of St. Elizabeth which was particularly hard hit: "Every (rainy) season we get flooding but I never see it like this," he said.   Another concerned citizen, Michael Burke, writing in the Jamaica Observer, laments the lack of preparation for flooding:
In Jamaica, discipline is still a goal to be reached. So we do not prepare for floods during drought and we do not prepare for floods during the rainy season. And while illegal sand miners remove sand and stones from gullies and leave only soft earth, we say nothing until heavy rain washes away houses with people in them.

In the Gleaner last Sunday, there was the story of an 84-year-old woman who was concerned that her house in Tavern, St Andrew, would be washed away. She said that people told her that it was her fault for building her house in the riverbed, but when she built her house 50 years ago, she was 50 feet from the river. What has happened is that the illegal sand mining has eroded the land. Will Papine Square itself be affected in another few years? ~ Michael Burke (See full article here.)

The global water cycle is speeding up and countries in the tropics are taking the brunt of it. Jamaica and the Caribbean should expect more of the flooding and drought extremes and prepare for this new reality. National Geographic’s Freshwater Fellow Sandra Postel summarizes new findings published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which explains the disturbing reasons why we are seeing so much more flooding now:
Flooding in Havendale, Kingston Jamaica Sept 2010
There is nearly 20 percent more freshwater flowing into the world's oceans than there was 10 years ago--a sign of climate change and a harbinger of more flooding.

A new indicator has joined the century-long rise in temperature to signal that the planet's climate is changing: the global water cycle is speeding up. Using satellite observations, NASA and university researchers have found that rivers and melting ice sheets delivered 18 percent more water to the oceans in 2006 than in 1994.

The findings, which appear in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that the volume of water running off the land toward the sea is expanding by the equivalent of roughly one Mississippi River each year. 

On the face of it that might sound like a good thing--more water in rivers means more water to tap for agriculture, industry, and growing cities. But most of the increase is occurring in places where extra water isn't needed, like the wet tropics or the remote Arctic, or is being delivered through torrential storms that overwhelm human infrastructure and coping capacities. Though no single weather episode can be pinned to climate change, the massive rains that recently flooded a fifth of Pakistan is the kind of event scientists expect to see more of--and that nations should prepare for.

Why is the water cycle speeding up? As the atmosphere warms from the addition of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, it can hold more moisture. As a result, more water evaporates from the oceans, leading to thicker clouds that then dump more rainfall over the land. That heavier-than-normal rain can then produce massive flooding as it runs back toward the sea, where the cycle begins all over again. 

Scientists have expected global warming to speed up the water cycle in this way, but the use of satellite data allowed the trend to be observed and measured for the first time. The research team, led by Jay Famiglietti of the University of California at Irvine, used satellite records of sea level rise, precipitation, and evaporation to compile a unique 13-year record, the first of its kind.

As the scientific evidence mounts that more severe floods and droughts are on the horizon, getting on with ways of adapting to climatic change becomes just as urgent as slowing the pace of that change. ~ Sandra Postel directs the independent Global Water Policy Project and lectures, writes, and consults on international water issues. She is also Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and serves as lead water expert for the Society's freshwater initiative.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Caribbean Communities Mobilize for International Day of Climate Action - 10/10/10

World leaders have failed miserably at the many United Nations Climate Talks to enact any type of concerted and meaningful action against the rising effects of climate change. This year saw record wildfires in Russia, unprecedented floods in Pakistan, and the hottest year on record. But where politicians fail to take the threats to our planet seriously, a strong grassroots movement is mobilizing and taking action to fill the void left by political and corporate paralysis. All around the world, on October 10, 2010, a second global work party will be taking place to educate people and take action on climate change. The first global work party took place a year ago on October 29, 2009 when 5,248 events were held in 181 countries (see video below).  This year's global work party will see over 6,000 events taking place in 184 countries as people around the world unite in a common vision to work to reduce our carbon footprint.

Caribbean nations with communities participating in the event include Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Guadalupe, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados. The Caribbean Youth Environment Network is participating with events in several countries.  For the full listing of events and contact names for event organizers, please see the event listing page here.




From the organizers of the event:

350.org is an international grassroots campaign that aims to mobilize a global climate movement united by a common call to action. By spreading an understanding of the science and a shared vision for a fair policy, we will ensure that the world creates bold and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. 350.org is an independent and not-for-profit project.

What is 350? 350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Scientists measure carbon dioxide in "parts per million" (ppm), so 350ppm is the number humanity needs to get below as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change. To get there, we need a different kind of PPM-a "people powered movement" that is made of people like you in every corner of the planet.

We are currently at 388 ppm. A year ago we were at 385 ppm so we have a ways to go if we are to turn back the carbon clock to 350 ppm. Let's hope that the power of this worldwide grassroots mobilization will bring about a serious effort on all levels of society to bring our planet back into balance with a sustainable future for all.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

One Nation March on Washington, D.C.

Photo Alison Omens


Thank you to Crooks and Liars for these clips of speeches from the One Nation Rally held today in Washington, D.C.   Nicole Belle reports on Crooks and Liars:
Enthusiasm gap, schmenthusiasm gap. Without the benefit of months and months of advertising and promotion on Fox News Channel (in fact, I'm only aware of Ed Schultz on MSNBC doing any kind of TV promotion), the One Nation Working Together rally in Washington DC has gathered more supporters than Glenn Beck's much ballyhooed rally, which I will lovingly refer to as "Whitestock".

Preliminary satellite estimates put the crowd size at 175,000 to 200,000 at about noon EST. Read full article here.

From the One Nation website:
One Nation Working Together is a social movement of individuals and organizations committed to putting America back to work and pulling America back together. Coming from a diverse set of backgrounds, experiences, beliefs and orientations, we are determined to build a more united country with good jobs, equal justice, and quality public education for all. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Palisadoes Jamaica, Farewell


This opening scene of the 1962 James Bond film Dr. No starts where Mr. Bond is picked up at the airport in Kingston, Jamaica by Mr. Jones, the driver (Jamaican actor Reggie Carter – who was a good friend of my father.) Mr. Jones drives Mr. Bond along the 14 km Palisadoes strip towards the city. Every visitor who arrives in Jamaica at the Kingston airport is afforded this wonderful drive toward the city. In the background are the Blue Mountains that overlook Kingston. On one side of Palisadoes is the open Caribbean Sea, on the other the calm waters of Kingston Harbor, one of the best deep harbors in the world.
The Palisados strip holds good memories for me. As a child, I learned to swim at Morgan’s Harbor, in its sea water swimming pool enclosed by a boardwalk, boats bobbing in the background. My father used to take us to Port Royal at the end of the strip to eat curry lobster and learn about the “wickedest city on earth,” the haunt of pirates that sank in the earthquake of 1692. We would stop at the Giddy House, an abandoned old stone house that partially sank in the earthquake of 1907. Walking in the Giddy House would make you instantly dizzy and disoriented, which brought squeals of laughter from us kids. We would stop at the Plumb Point lighthouse and climb its steps for spectacular view of the city and the open sea. We would park the car at the end of the airport runway and watch the planes taking off and landing. And then there was nearby Cable Hut, a black sand beach just east of the Palisadoes strip at Bull Bay where my mother took me and my cousins every Sunday. My cousins surfed the wild waves that crashed onto Palisadoes from the Caribbean. In the distance you could see Lime Cay, a favorite spot for boaters on a Sunday. The rusted out old hull of a ship wrecked tanker gave an ominous sign that these waters were treacherous, however, Palisadoes in those days, offered a beautiful respite from the heat of Kingston. The wild Caribbean Sea side of the strip delivered constant sea breezes and sand dunes to explore. The quieter harbor side offered miles of mangroves and striking views of the city framed by the glorious Blue Mountains.
And now, it seems that the Palisadoes I knew is to be no more. Diana McCaulay, of the Jamaica Environment Trust has today written a disturbing blog post titled “The Destruction of the Palisadoes Spit” detailing the Jamaican government plans that include bulldozing the strip to make an expanded highway. Her post is well worth reading for all of the history she gives of this unique piece of land, as well as the more current events such as Hurricane Ivan that have affected the Palisadoes. A few highlights of her post:

On the doorstep to the city of Kingston in September 2010, you can see an environmental defeat. The Palisadoes spit, that jointed arm that holds Kingston Harbour in loose embrace, has been bulldozed by the National Works Agency (NWA), via their Chinese contractors and/or Jamaican sub contractors, led by the Minister of Transport and Works, with the willing and enthusiastic support of the National and Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). At this point, it appears that the entire spit will be denuded of all vegetation, its beaches compacted, sand dunes destroyed, the few struggling strands of mangroves obliterated in order to construct or expand (it’s not entirely clear which) an utterly unnecessary road. . . . And then I got the phone call – Diana, there are bulldozers on the Palisadoes, and I drove out there, and I really did not expect to see what I saw, because I suppose I remain resistant to the reality of the scale of the damage that can be done to a strip of coast in a few hours by three bulldozers. But there it was – a swathe of annihilation far beyond anything ever visited on the Palisadoes by nature, virtually everything living on the Big Sea side simply mown down.

Where are our institutions, I wondered, where are those agencies set up to protect our history and our land? They fall like dominoes every time, their mandates ever in revision. Where are the voices of the academy, those who study places like Palisadoes? And where is it, I ask myself, where is it that we will finally refuse to destroy? Will we go into debt to raze the Blue Mountains, flatten Cockpit Country, dam Dunns River, fill in Blue Lagoon, pave over Font Hill, build a water park in the Royal Palm Reserve? If not, why not? Where is the line to be drawn and who will draw it? 

What should have been done? radio interviewers ask me. The Palisadoes road had to be defended. We could have restored the groyne field after Ivan in 2004, I say, we could have graded the dunes and planted vegetation, we could have controlled the sand mining in Hope River to make sure sediment was replenishing the spit, we could have reafforested the watershed so that there was a steady release of silt to the sea, instead of silt and soil coming down in flood events in massive quantities, disrupting the currents. We could, in other words, have restored the same inexorable process that built the Palisadoes and will keep building it. But always, we prefer bulldozers. Read the full post here.

I echo Diana’s lamentations for Jamaica’s special places of natural beauty and the alarm at the lack of environmental consideration given to these places that are the heritage of all Jamaicans. If you would like to voice your concern for Palisadoes, please note the following email addresses:

letters@gleanerjm.com
maraghg@jamaicaobserver.com
peter.knight@nepa.gov.jm
ps@opm.gov.jm

Update Sept.16:
Please see comment from Diana McCaulay below where she is asking that anyone who has memories they would like to share about Palisadoes, to please do so as she will be collecting them. Please share anonymously if you would rather your name not be used.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

John Perkins: Mr. CEO, Can You Spare A Job or a Free Lunch?

John Perkins is one of those rare individuals who has traversed the worst landscapes of the corporatocracy from the inside and come out with his heart and soul intact. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of spending time with John at a few of his week-long workshops at the Omega Institute in New York. This was before the publication of his incredible best-seller Confessions of an Economic Hit Man where he exposed details of the corporatocracry’s greedy tentacles spreading globalization and empire-building at the expense of poverty-stricken peoples across the world. Recruited by the National Security Agency in his 20’s, Perkins had worked as a consultant for multi-national corporations who benefited from World Bank and IMF policies that were supposed to benefit places like Jamaica, Ecuador, Indonesia and Panama, but instead were really elaborate schemes to profit the multi-nationals. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is a riveting personal memoir and I remember John talking about his decision to publish this book. He had been warned not to do it. Publishers had rejected his manuscript out of fear of the repercussions. But his conscience won out and he went ahead and found a publisher and the book became a best-seller. If you read that book, then the economic melt-down of 2008, the corrupt BP’s actions with the oil disaster in the Gulf this year and the legislative impasse in this country is no surprise. Since then, he has written The Secret History of the American Empire and Hoodwinked. His website is at JohnPerkins.org. His latest essay in The Huffington Post takes on the issue of excessive CEO pay and is another clarion call from this great voice:

"An economic policy which does not consider the well-being of all will not serve the purposes of peace and the growth of well-being among the people of all nations."(Eleanor Roosevelt)

In case you are tempted to feel sorry during these troubled times for the corporatocracy... this just in:

The CEOs who fired the most workers during the current economic recession also rewarded themselves with the highest pay. Top managers at the fifty corporations with the greatest number of layoffs were paid an average of $12 million in salary, bonuses and other perks -- 42 percent more than the average for the Standard & Poor's 500. To make matters worst, at most of these companies -- a whopping 72 percent in fact -- layoffs were announced at a time when earnings were increasing. This according to a study by the Institute for Policy Studies that covered the period from November 2008 to April 2010.

Isn't it comforting to know that while you and I are experiencing the worst economy we've seen in our life-times, with jobless claims rising to 500,000, the CEOs are thriving? They are purchasing luxury cars, yachts, new homes, and even buying off foreclosed properties at fire-sale prices. Perhaps we should sleep better at night knowing that they are working so hard to offset their ruthless firings of employees by trying to revive the Rolls Royce dealerships and mortgage companies!

Not only are some of the world's richest CEOs getting richer off the backs of laid off employees, but they're doing it at the same time profits rise and shareholder cigars are lit with martinis in hand celebrating the companies continued reign of predatory capitalism. These same 50 top layoff leaders' companies also enjoyed a 44% average profit increase in 2009. And many of them paid little or no taxes (e.g. Exxon, with over $45 billion in profits, recorded no U.S. income taxes and GE generated $10 billion in pretax income and took a tax BENEFIT of $1.1 billion).

I have to admit that I was never terribly enamored with Karl Marx. When I was a young man, many of my peers called on his writings to justify taking to the streets against the Vietnam war, but I -- a business student -- saw that war more as an excuse for the military-industrial complex to get rich than as a class struggle. Now, however, I have to suspect that Marx was wiser than I used to believe. In fact, the Institute for Policy Studies report estimates that CEOs in the U.S.'s largest publicly traded corporations earn an average compensation 263 times higher than the typical American production worker. Sounds like the exact situation Marx warned us about!

The study cites some very telling specific examples. Among them:

- Wal-Mart's CEO Michael Duke laid off 13,350 workers and earned almost 20 million for his trouble;

- The now disgraced Mark Hurd of HP managed to reduce his work force by 6400 and still earn $24.2 million;

- AMEX's Kenneth Chenault earned $16.8 million while American Express laid off 4,000 employees accepted $3.39 billion in TARP funding;

- Intel Corp's Paul Otellini trimmed about 5,000 jobs and received $14.4 million in compensation.


The report notes, "The $598 million combined compensation of the top 50 CEOs in our layoff leader survey could provide average unemployment benefits to 37,579 workers for an entire year -- or nearly a month of benefits for each of the 531,363 workers their companies laid off."

As I wrote in Hoodwinked, "When we examine the state of our economy -- the shortage of businesses that produce real things that people need, the huge gap between rich and poor, the current national debt, and the exploitation of the many by a very few -- we see a profile similar to that in the Third World."

Our overall standards may be higher than in the Third Word; however, in relative terms the similarities are shocking. And each year, in fact each quarter, with every new report, the situation grows worse. The sad fact is that the rich get richer and the middle class is disappearing.

Some of the most shocking statistics that highlight the discrepancies are those around hunger. While the CEOs feast on caviar, nearly 17 million, or almost 1 in 4, American children are at risk of hunger. Those hungry children are the victims of bloated, unregulated, corporate Robber Barons who lay off workers (parents) for bottom line greed.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

You and I can change the future for the better by taking action now. Demanding accountability and regulations that protect workers and stop the excessive payouts, golden parachutes and layoffs. A list of the companies is available here.

Please send emails to every company on this list that you patronize or are tempted to patronize and tell them the you will NOT buy from them until they change their ways, until their executives are willing to reduce their compensation and hire back those fired workers. Only through expressing our discontent will we make a difference!

We must demand a completely new economic policy that benefits all not just the wealthiest in our country. It is up to you and me! ~ John Perkins

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World
Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded--and What We Need to Do to Remake Them

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Power of One: Celebrating Our Diversity


The news seems to be dominated the last few weeks with stories of hate, racism, bigotry and religious intolerance. I don't know about you, but I know that all of this talk is far out of the realm of my understanding as to how, at this time in humanity's history, we are still cycling through these ridiculous fear-based and completely ignorant impulses. In the spirit of rising above all of this nonsense which is tearing people apart, let's instead celebrate our diversity, the beauty of all of our different traditions that serve to enliven and enrich our collective experience on earth. This little video was made by some friends of mine over at Corelight.org. This was their intention in making it:
We have the power to change the world. Whether it is one extraordinary individual, or a group of individuals of one heart and one mind, never doubt that we can. An inspiring, uplifting 5-minute music video, The Power of One touches the heart and delivers a message of hope and peace for the world in these troubled times.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Our Warm, Lonely World

If all the animals were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. ~ Chief Seattle

As our hottest summer ever draws to a close and scientists confirm that 2010 is the hottest year ever recorded in history, we are left with the searing images from floods in Pakistan, wildfires in Russia and news of a giant arctic iceberg breaking off from Greenland.  All symptoms of global warming.  Our feckless, short-sighted and corrupted politicians in Washington (and around the world), who failed miserably at the U.N. Climate Talks in Copenhagen to come to a Global Warming agreement, should be hanging their heads in shame.   Mark Lynas comments in The Independent on what we can look forward to with the rise in temperatures:
Sea levels are creeping higher, polar bears are history and tropical storms of undreamt-of ferocity batter the world's coastlines.

Welcome to the world bequeathed to us by negotiators at Copenhagen last year, whose timid proposals for cutting back on carbon emissions will do little to turn the tide of global warming. A world 3.5C hotter will be well outside the safety zone, currently estimated as between 1.5 and C by scientists.

Once global temperatures pass 3C, several crucial tipping points in the Earth's climate system are likely to have been crossed. Firstly, the ice cap over the North Pole will have disappeared entirely during the summer months, changing the planet's energy balance and weather patterns. Secondly, melting permafrost in Siberia and other high-latitude areas will be releasing millions of tonnes of the extra-powerful greenhouse gas methane, and there will be nothing we can do to stop it. And lastly, the world's most important and biodiverse tropical forest, the Amazon region, will be burning up and transforming into desert.

Life for humans will be getting increasingly hot and sticky. Saharan-type temperatures, well over 50C, will be striking regularly in summertime continental interiors, from the southern United States to the south Asian subcontinent to the Middle East. Around the Mediterranean, forests will be tinder-dry and devastating wildfires an annual occurrence – Australia and California can expect much of the same.

Deadly heatwaves, such as that which struck Europe in 2003 and Moscow in 2010, will be a normal summer. Global warming means more energy is available to drive the hydrological cycle, and in addition a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour. These two factors are already behind an intensification in heavy rainfall events from England's recent Cumbrian floods to the flooding disaster in Pakistan.

In the 3.5C world, the oscillation between drought and flood will be even more profound: in Africa and India the rains may fail one year, only to be replaced by topsoil-stripping monsoons the following season. Global food supplies will be stretched by the unpredictability of weather extremes, and the return of dustbowl conditions to the world's major breadbaskets such as the US corn belt.

Sea levels by the end of the century will be heading towards two metres above today's high tide mark, dooming low-lying nations such as the Maldives and endangering coastal megacities like Shanghai and Bangkok – not to mention New York and London. Most of the additional water will be sluicing off the Greenland ice-cap – now in irreversible melt – and the rapidly-diminishing remains of Himalayan and Andean glaciers. The warmer oceans will be stagnant in many areas, spreading low-oxygen "dead zones" over vast areas and ruining fisheries the world over.

Just as distressing will be a devastating extinction event in what remains of the natural world: perhaps as much as half of all the world's plants and animals may be heading for extinction. Humans may survive, but our warmer world will be increasingly lonely. ~ Mark Lynas

To join in the global work party for climate solutions on 10/10/10 go to 350.org.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bill McKibben on David Letterman


The indomitable Bill McKibben was on David Letterman's The Late Show last night making the case for re-installing solar panels on the White House and engaging the planet in a work party for climate solutions on 10/10/10.
If you're not familiar with his work, read his essay, "Get Mad. Then Get Busy" here.
Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future [Deep Economy]
The End of Nature
To join in the global work party for climate solutions on 10/10/10 go to 350.org.

Tell the truth about safety of Gulf of Mexico Seafood

I thought it was weird and strangely pollyanna-ish  when the U.S. Govt. and President Obama came out and declared that Gulf seafood was now safe to eat, only weeks after the oilspill had been pummeling the Gulf of Mexico with oil, and after the huge amount of highly toxic Corexit that BP was pouring into the Gulf to disperse the oil. If we blindly believed them, we would naively think that the smell tests being used to determine the safety of the seafood was sufficient. Come on. Nothing felt right about this to me. And I am sure that I am not the only one who had doubts. I love seafood as much as the next person. I want the Gulf of Mexico to be restored as quickly as possible and the fishermen of the Gulf to regain their livelihood as quickly as possible. But common sense alone told me that these early declarations of the seafood being safe were really off. And now, here we go with the evidence - this in today from Laura Parker on the AOL News website:

Lab Results Raise New Concerns Over Gulf Seafood
(Aug. 31) -- A Boston lab hired by the United Commercial Fishermen's Association to analyze coastal fishing waters says findings suggest the government's claim that Gulf of Mexico seafood is safe to eat may be premature.

The lab, Boston Chemical Data Corp., said it found dispersant in a sample taken near Biloxi, Miss., almost a month after BP said it had stopped using the toxic chemical to break up the record amounts of crude spewed by the Gulf oil spill. The leak was finally capped on July 15.

The lab posted its data today on the website of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network in a move that could fuel the debate over the status of the cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico.

Parts of the gulf have been reopened to fishing and shrimping after the federal government declared the waters safe.
The lab's findings "again point to evidence that the 'all clear' is being sounded way too early," said Stuart Smith, attorney for both the fishermen's union and LEAN, which is suing BP on their behalf. "I do not believe a robust statistical sampling has occurred to prove that it's safe."

Water samples analyzed by Boston Chemical show oil and toxins in crab. But the key finding, according to Marco Kaltofen, the lab's president, is the presence of the Corexit dispersant used to break up the oil in coastal water near Horn Island, off Biloxi.

BP has said repeatedly the last day it used any dispersant was July 19. Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Alicia Johnson confirmed the agency believes that to be the case.

But Kaltofen said the time frame raises a question.

"Why on Aug. 9 did we find on a relatively concentrated pool of dispersant on the surface, well outside where the dispersant was going to be sprayed? It shouldn't have been there," Kaltofen told AOL News. He added that the high concentration in the sample suggested the dispersant was not carried inland from open water.

"What person or process got this dispersant with such a high concentration into inshore waters?" Kaltofen said.

Fishermen working the gulf say flatly they don't believe that BP actually stopped using the dispersant. But Kaltofen said he has talked to scientists who are searching for a more scientifically sound reason. One possibility: Could the dispersant have reconstituted itself on the surface?

"We just don't know enough about this yet," he said.

In all, Boston Chem has taken 250 samples from western Louisiana to the Florida Keys. The EPA has taken 300 water samples near shore, and found one "indication of a possible dispersant constituent near Louisiana," according to an e-mail from the agency.

"The location was sampled several other times with no other detection," the agency said, adding that it is continuing to monitor the region for "any possible safety and health threats."

Between June 27 and July 20, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sampled 153 fish in the area reopened to fishing and is continuing to test samples of fish caught throughout the gulf. NOAA scientists have found no oil in the area reopened for fishing since early July, according to a report by the agency.

The Food and Drug Administration said in a statement that seafood samples from reopened fishing waters have passed sensory testing for contamination with oil and dispersant.

Scientific data gathered by the government "indicate that the dispersants used in the Deepwater Horizon response are unlikely to build up in the flesh of the fish," the FDA said. "This is primarily based on the assessment of their physical properties, which indicate that these compounds do not penetrate the gills or bodies of fish, and will not be concentrated in edible tissues of seafood."

The credibility of an analysis by a firm hired by attorneys suing BP will inevitably be challenged in court by the oil giant. Yet there is so much suspicion about the government's conclusion that much of the oil had disappeared that any report justifying those fears carries added weight.

Anecdotally, fishermen recount episodes where fishermen and cleanup crews have worked the same waters.

"My cousin was working in Grand Isle. He told me they had people who were shrimping alongside people who were skimming oil," said Louis Molero, a Louisiana oysterman.

"Everybody believes the government is sugar-coating this," he said. "If we get one person sick due to oil, our business is really going to be in a mess."

Here is another very disturbing piece of evidence from the Alternet website:

Mississippi Shrimpers Find Oil Throughout Waters, Refuse To Trawl
They tied an absorbent rag to a weighted hook, dropped it overboard, then pulled it up to find it covered in a mix of BP's crude oil and toxic dispersants.
August 30, 2010 |The U.S. state of Mississippi recently reopened all of its fishing areas. The problem is that commercial shrimpers refuse to trawl because they fear the toxicity of the waters and marine life due to the BP oil disaster.
On Aug. 6, Mississippi's Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, in coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ordered the reopening of all Mississippi territorial waters to all commercial and recreational finfish and shrimp fishing activities that were part of the precautionary closures following the BP oil rig disaster in April. At least five million barrels flowed into the Gulf before the well was shut earlier this month.
But Miller, along with many other commercial shrimpers, refuses to trawl.
Miller took this reporter out on his shrimp boat, along with commercial shrimper Mark Stewart, and Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental group working to document and alleviate the effects of BP's oil disaster.
The goal was to prove to the public that their fishing grounds are contaminated with both oil and dispersants. Their method was simple – they tied an absorbent rag to a weighted hook, dropped it overboard for a short duration of time, then pulled it up to find the results. The rags were covered in a brown oily substance that the fishermen identified as a mix of BP's crude oil and toxic dispersants.
Miller and Stewart, who were both in BP's Vessels of Opportunity programme and were trained in identifying oil and dispersants, have been accused by some members of Mississippi's state government of lying about their findings.
"Why would we lie about oil and dispersant in our waters, when our livelihoods depend on our being able to fish here?" Miller asked IPS. "I want this to be cleaned up so we can get back to how we used to live. But it doesn't make sense for us or anyone else to fish if our waters are toxified. I don't know why people are angry at us for speaking the truth. We're not the ones who put the oil in the water."  Read the full article here.

For recommendations on safe seafood, read the new Smart Seafood Guide from Food and Water Watch.

Monday, August 30, 2010

USVI - Thoughts on passing of Hurricane Earl

As I write this, Hurricane Earl is pounding the islands of the USVI and the BVI. I have personal connections on these islands and have been fortunate to travel to these islands several times. My thoughts go out to everyone living on the islands with hopes that Earl spares you too much damage and that Fiona, fast following in Earl's tracks, will bypass you. My favourite pictures from St. Thomas and St. John:
View of beautiful Magens Bay - rated one of the world's best beaches on St. Thomas. A personal favorite.
Magens Bay St. Thomas
The amazing Trunk Bay on St. John USVI
Trunk Bay, St. John
View of the Charlotte Amalie harbor on St. Thomas USVI