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Letters for the week of March 20, 2019

Big Ag

Every bit as much on the political left (I’m a member) as on its right, careful analysis and hard data seem to count for nothing these days. As a result, the mindless dogma of the “sustainable food” movement has found a home in Whatcom County just as surely as mildew. Let’s clear out a bit of mustiness:
There are no credible data to show that organic poison is less dangerous than synthetic poison, or to show that organic food is safer to eat than conventionally grown food. Such is the view of, among many others, Bruce Ames, the more or less most important figure in history to further the study of mutagenicity and carcinogenicity (bruceames.org).
More than 140 Nobel laureates have urged Greenpeace to cease its baseless fearmongering about GMOs. And for those of us old enough to remember him, even Stewart Brand (the Whole Earth Catalog, etc) has joined the chorus: “The environmental movement has done more harm with its opposition to genetic engineering than with any other thing we’ve been wrong about” (sb.longnow.org).
“Eating local” sometimes results in a smaller carbon footprint, and sometimes does not, and has next to nothing to do with providing affordable food for those most in need domestically or internationally (geneticliteracyproject.org).
When dinosaurs roamed the planet, I stepped foot on my first college campus and decided to study what struck me as the most important question ever: Why do some people have food while others do not? Going on a half-century later, it seems to me that the “sustainable food” movement is just the same old mindlessness of haves, leaving out have-nots. In short, there’s no such thing as agricultural sustainability that doesn’t account for socioeconomic justice. Without reaching those most in need, “sustainable food” just means what few can afford and many cannot.
I doubt there’s a farmer on the planet who doesn’t think there’s always room for improvement, but I nevertheless cherish the agriculture of Whatcom County.

—Paul Klein, Bellingham

New NAFTA

When Donald Trump made “bad trade agreements” the cornerstone of his rust belt campaign, he had his finger on the pulse of workers whose neighborhoods were devastated by the corporate-rigged North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994. United States job losses, per the government TAA program, were 913,000 from NAFTA,  three million from all subsequent “free trade” agreements. This was no gift to Mexican farmers and workers, almost 11 million of whom were displaced from farms into sweatshop maquiladoras, or forced to migrate north and find work as farm labor.
The purpose of these neoliberal agreements was privatization, allowing corporations to evade national protective laws through international agreements hammered out in back rooms. The effects have been devastating to consumer protections,  food safety, workers’ rights, produced environmental degradation and global wealth inequality.
Mexico’s new President Obrador has plans to localize and democratize food production, but the new agreement was signed during his predecessor’s term, so he will be challenged by Big Ag.
Enter the rebranded NAFTA 2.0, the TrumpTrade appeal to his base, named the USCMA. It must be called what it is—the New NAFTA.
Hillary Haden, executive director of Washington Fair Trade Coalition, will speak in Bellingham as part of a statewide tour,  with an interactive program—how will this affect each one of us? Who are the winners and losers? Her presentation is at 11am Sat., March 30 at the Laborers Union Hall (1700 N. State Street). Phone (360) 671-3590 with questions.
You will learn how this NAFTA will raise drug prices as it gives longer patents and suppression of generics, how it will exempt oil and gas companies from limits on investor-state dispute settlements, limit border food inspections while increasing unsafe cheap food imports and its effects on local farms.

—Dianne Foster, Bellingham

Long dark cloud

Shaken by tragedy in New Zealand, my family’s home, the gunman’s attack seems indicative of a spreading inclination to avoid and despise education. Calling Donald Trump “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” the killer craved attention and an easy way out of caring for the 100 churchgoers he shot. Donald Trump makes people think that’s a career path.
We did not anticipate a tyrant who craves attention and an easy way out of caring taking over the White House. The majority of voters knew something went wrong with the election. But here we are, stuck with a plague of a personality and his daily abuse—at the expense of Mexico, NATO, the EU, the G20, the G8, all of science and the natural world, common sense, “shithole countries,” Canada, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, California, Puerto Rico, and the honorable United States of America.
Now New Zealand—the Land of the Long White Cloud, Aotearoa—is suffering a 9/11-sized wound thanks in part to our president, who says he’s the best, yet won’t say why an unknown number of kids are still in cages or missing due to his “policy of deterrence.” What we do know is his “professional detention centers” hired known child abusers, and Trump still doesn’t care, so they must be part of his planned deterrence.
In a photo-op to announce his veto to get public funding for his “wall paid by Mexico,” Trump briefly expressed sympathy for New Zealand’s emergency. Then he blurted out, “We’re on track for a million illegal aliens to rush our borders! People hate the word invasion, but that’s what it is, it’s an invasion. These immigrants. It’s an emergency! We have to stop them today.”
Upon reading the manifesto, Trump aide Kellyanne Conway described the killer: “He says, ‘I’m not a conservative, I’m not a Nazi.’ So it sounds like he’s an eco-terrorist.” Then, after overlooking his theme of white supremacy, she promptly took to the talk-show circuit to encourage everyone to read his manifesto in its entirety. Not your normal post-trauma reassurance strategy. May I be blunt? Can a mother be more irresponsible?
Like the EPA removing all references to climate change from its website, this is problem-solving in the Trump era. Break something and go to lunch. His administration, aware of its low-IQ image, calculates that not enough Americans will rise to demonstrate resistance. But that’s our country they’re trashing.
As we enter the climate era requiring selfless leadership, long-term vision, scientific fluency, and a caring unity of purpose amid New Zealand’s haunting event, how could any U.S. opposition leader wait for further evidence of damage before declaring this president—this symbol of white supremacy, of sucking up to Russia, of unprecedented bullying and carelessness—a clear-and-present danger to the world, both natural and civilized, and categorically unfit to lead our nation.
This year, a long, dark cloud will hang over New Zealand, and from the most peaceful land on Earth came the heart-wrenching truth: America’s president has warped human history for the worse. The White House even used the distraction of deadly news out of New Zealand to announce Trump’s new budget, with $2.5 trillion in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—all senior services. He then declared most western states “open” to new oil drilling, ignoring key environmental recommendations commissioned by his own administration.
We’re trying to survive Trump, we’re numb and tweet-abused, but we can’t deny the consequences of inaction. How can we “wait him out” as he vows more harm to come? A man craved attention and an easy way out of caring, so he shot anyone that wasn’t his shade of white. Stupid, senseless, selfish. What will Trump do with his urges? How many more people will he motivate to lash out?
We know how to read. We saw the research and recommendations. We have a deadline. Surround the White House, serve subpoenas, and take him into custody. Open the gate to rejoin the world with an every day is Earth Day mindset, and march for one goal: an intelligent future of real justice and progress—with love as our common strength. For we are in a hurry, and we won’t get Trumped again!
Perhaps all worlds reach this tipping point where civilization must adopt nature as its superpower. Perhaps we will meet people from these worlds when we too are ready to achieve balance and join Natural Civilization. This may be as close to peace as there exists in life. Let’s find out.

—Brian D. Bogart, Bellingham

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