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Sunday, February 28, 2010

When Trying To Save The Planet Strains The Relationship

Click here to read the full article from the New York Times

Ms. Cobb chides him for running the water too long while he shaves or showers. And she finds it “depressing,” she tells him, that he continues to buy a steady stream of items online when her aim is for them to lead a less materialistic life.

Mr. Fleming, who says he became committed to Ms. Cobb “before her high-priestess phase,” describes their conflicts as good-natured — mostly.

But he refuses to go out to eat sushi with her anymore, he said, because he cannot stand to hear her quiz the waiters.

“None of it is sustainable or local,” he said, “and I am not eating cod or rockfish.”

As awareness of environmental concerns has grown, therapists say they are seeing a rise in bickering between couples and family members over the extent to which they should change their lives to save the planet.

In households across the country, green lines are being drawn between those who insist on wild salmon and those who buy farmed, those who calculate their carbon footprint and those who remain indifferent to greenhouse gases.

“As the focus on climate increases in the public’s mind, it can’t help but be a part of people’s planning about the future,” said Thomas Joseph Doherty, a clinical psychologist in Portland, Ore., who has a practice that focuses on environmental issues. “It touches every part of how they live: what they eat, whether they want to fly, what kind of vacation they want.”

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Let the EPA know!

From our friend Pamela Rice at Viva Vegie!

EPA to ag: We want to hear from you...
Maybe the EPA ought to come the the vegetarians for input. Then (and
only then) we can get an environmental policy that makes any sense.
-Pamela R.

article follows:

[EXCERPT: Frizzell said the EPA officials in Washington want input
from farmers and agribusinesses when they write new regulations. "Let
us hear your side of the story so we can get a balanced

click for original:

EPA to ag: We want to hear from you

by Dan Looker
Successful Farming magazine
Business Editor

2/11/2010, 7:53 AM CST

An agricultural advisor for the Environmental Protection Agency in
Kansas City thanked the Agribusiness Association of Iowa for a chance
to speak to the group at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines

"We don't get a lot of invitations -- being from the EPA," joked
Damon Frizzell, who is an ag advisor for the agency's Water, Wetlands
and Pesticides Division at the Kansas City regional office.

The government agency agriculture loves to fear has made key
decisions that affect the industry recently. It announced a new
renewable fuel standard last week that will expand the market for
biofuels, especially soybean-based biodiesel. And next summer the EPA
is expected to decide if the amount of ethanol in unleaded gasoline
can be increased from the current 10% to 15%. The agency also
regulates pesticides, runoff from confined livestock facilities and
perhaps in the future, greenhouse gas emissions from the largest
livestock operations.

Frizzell said the EPA officials in Washington want input from farmers
and agribusinesses when they write new regulations.

"Let us hear your side of the story so we can get a balanced
decision," said Frizzell, who was standing in for Larry Elworth, the
agricultural counselor to EPA's administrator, Lisa Jackson. Elworth
planned to be the keynote speaker to the trade group that represents
Iowa's ag supply and grain elevator industry. He was unable to fly
out of snowbound Washington.

Frizzell said that when EPA issued an "endangerment finding" for
carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases last December, it means
that the agency has concluded the gases are factor in global warming.
But it doesn't mean the EPA will be regulating greenhouse gas
emissions soon.

"So much depends on what Congress does in the near future," he said.

The House has already passed cap and trade legislation but a similar
bill is stalled in the Senate.

Frizzell said that the new renewable fuel standard announced by EPA
will create a market this year for between 12 billion and 13 billion
gallons of biofuels. By 2022 the energy law EPA is enforcing, the
Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, will mandate the use of
36 billion gallons of biofuels. That will be 7% of all gasoline and
diesel use projected for that year. And the demand for crops and
biomass that will be turned into fuel will increase net farm income
by $13 billion, he said.


Now, hear the other side of this cozy industry/government relationship.
This would be the perfect lecture, if only Anuradha Mittal advocated
veganism; she's been known to support the interests of New York's
upstate dairy farmers.
-Pamela R.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cow Fashion Show

From our friend Madhava Ghosh's blog "View From A New Vrindaban Ridge"

by Nishal Lama,

How many would have really thought that there could be a fashion show with models being the cows. The Kombu Mela celebration that was held at ISKCON in the city on January 14 showed exactly that: cows replacing the model, where the designers where replaced by the make over artists who were none other than the students from various city colleges.

As an initiative by ISKCON to celebrate the yearly Kombu Mela, the authorities, this time, decided to organize this, one of its kind, event where cows were to replace the usual models for the fashion show. Dressed in the best attire (all thanks to the students’ efforts), the cows were sure to look different for the show. With balloons, ribbons, garlands and flowers, it was almost a no-stone-unturned thing for the students who were involved to give the make over. The students, however, had their share of fun participating in the event. Shweta, a student from Vogue Institute, said, “This is the first time ever that I have come so close to a cow, let alone dressing it up. I was pretty apprehensive when I got into this, but that was short lived. Once here, I lost all my apprehensions. I have enjoyed doing the makeover; it was so much fun.”

People from the temple singing a Bhajan during the program

It wasn’t just the make over artists, but the cows were seen equally apprehensive. Radhika, another participant said, “When I came here for the first time, the cow was really scared looking at everything that was going around. But it didn’t take a lot of time for us to get our things done. It was wonderful to see how the cow started reacting to all that we were doing. It’s, for sure, one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Echoing Radhika’s thoughts, Shweta K., a participant from Vogue Institute, said, “We have even given a name to the cow that we are doing the make over for; we have named Sahana, and she is beautiful. I have got an amazing experience being here.”

Meanwhile the Mirchi RJ’s also engaged the crowd with fun games and contests. Celebrity judges from Sandalwood, Chetan & newbie Regina, seemed to have had a fun time watching the cow beauties walking the ramp. While standing beside the winning cow for a picture, Regina cheekily said, “It feels as if we are standing beside a glam diva. I am glad that the organizers have come out with such fun concept.” Speaking on the occasion, Rahul Balyan, Cluster Head Karnataka & Kerala said, “Kombu Mela has become our signature event now. And, since Radio Mirchi has such a strong following with the youth of Bangalore, we decided to adopt and give the Sankranti celebrations a youthful and Mirchi twist. Hence, the fashion show.”

Some of the participating colleges for the Fashion Show were Vogue Fashion Institute, the fashion departments of Surana College and KLE College, Sheshadripuram College, Presidency College and so forth. The team, which was successful in bringing out a perfect themed look on the cow, was chosen the winner, and it was Vogue Institute with the theme Beauty and the Beast. The winner got price money of Rs. 10,000.

Having won the contest, Sandeep M., from the winning team said, “We were not here to win, but to participate in the event. So, it really doesn’t matter, but it has been a sheer fun to have taken part in the whole thing.” Guess, it just happens with the cows in India.

Click Here

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Churches Knocking On Doors, To Talk About The Environment

Matthew Williams for The New York Times

MILLWOOD, Wash. — State auditors told Millwood Community Presbyterian Church last summer to close its farmers’ market on the church parking lot or the lot could no longer be claimed as tax-exempt. Without hesitation, the church kept the market and paid the $700 in annual taxes.

Pastor Deb Conklin talked about the new, energy-conscious furnace at Liberty Park United Methodist Church in Spokane.

Money is tight, but the locally raised beef and vegetables and, most important, the environmentally minded customers had become central to the 90-year-old church’s ministry.

“It’s like we’ve got more going on in our parking lot than we do within the walls of the church,” said the pastor, Craig Goodwin.

Across the Northwest, where church attendance has long been low but concern for the environment high, some church leaders and parishioners are ringing doorbells to inform neighbors — many of whom have never stepped inside the sanctuary down the street — about ways to conserve energy and lower their utility bills. Some view the new push as a way to revitalize their congregations and reconnect with their nearby community.

Religious leaders have been preaching environmentalism for years, and much attention has focused on politically powerful evangelical Christian leaders who have taken up climate change as a cause. Yet some smaller, older and often struggling mainline churches are also going greener, reducing their carbon footprint by upgrading basement boilers and streamlining the Sunday bulletin, swapping Styrofoam for ceramic mugs at coffee hour and tending jumbled vegetable gardens where lawns once were carefully cultivated.

“I’ve never been good at door-to-door evangelism,” said Deb Conklin, the pastor at Liberty Park United Methodist Church in Spokane, Wash., where an aging and shrinking congregation of about 20 people worships on Sundays. “But this has been so fun. Everybody wants to talk to you. It’s exciting. It’s ministry.”

Several mainline church leaders in the Northwest said environmentalism offered an entry point, especially to younger adults, who might view Christianity as wrought with debates over gay rights and abortion.

A study released in December by the Barna Group, which more typically studies trends among evangelicals, said that older, mainline churches faced many challenges but that their approach to environmental issues was among several areas that “position those churches well for attracting younger Americans.”

“We actually encourage it as a way to get people into the churches,” said LeeAnne Beres, the executive director of Earth Ministry, a Seattle group founded in 1992 that has guided many area congregations through environmental upgrades over the past decade but has recently emphasized more direct political action for pastors and parishioners. “That is what people are interested in, and I don’t see anything Machiavellian in that.”

“It’s fertile ground,” Ms. Beres said, “and these are issues that people are predisposed to care about here in the Northwest.”

Several pastors said they had worked to ground environmental activism in religious teaching and more traditional areas of ministry, particularly social justice, to distinguish it from secular environmentalism. That might mean discussing the impact of climate change on people in countries susceptible to rising seas or on other species, what Hunt Priest, the rector of Emmanuel Episcopal in Mercer Island, Wash., called “the web of creation.”

“For a little while some people forgot this was a spiritual issue,” Mr. Priest said, “and we’ve reclaimed that now. I think we got caught up in things like changing light bulbs and saving paper and having the power company come out and do an audit.

“All important, but for us it needs to be about how we live our lives as Christians now that we know more about what we’ve done to the environment.”

Mr. Priest, who recently joined Ms. Beres and other pastors to lobby staff members of Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats of Washington, for a cap on carbon emissions, said he was wary of viewing environmentalism as a “church growth program.” He noted that while some mainline churches had reported increased attendance as they emphasized the issue, Emmanuel’s congregation, now about 250 families, had declined even though the church had been active on environmental issues for more than a decade.

Still, he said, concern for the environment “can be a spiritual growing edge.”

“Greening a congregation,” as some call it, is not always easy. At Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ near downtown Spokane, built in 1893, the congregation has about 200 people, down from 2,000 a few decades ago. The pastor, Andrea CastroLang, said the church recently had an energy audit and that while it has made some of the proposed changes, including upgrading the boiler, some were impractical for the soaring, heat-leaking sanctuary.

“They were like, ‘It’d be really great if you could lower your ceiling,’ ” Ms. CastroLang said. “We said, ‘We can’t do that.’ ”

Food is at the forefront of some local efforts, and it is central to the changes under way here at Millwood Presbyterian. In 2008, Mr. Goodwin, the pastor, and his family experimented with eating only locally grown food. Mr. Goodwin, who blogged about the experience, said that he had not been particularly environmentally minded in the past and that the shift came as he tried to help his church engage more with the modest neighborhood surrounding it. The congregation, once 1,700 people, had shrunk to 420 five years ago but has since risen to about 500, he said.

Mr. Goodwin said the farmers’ market, originally conceived by a teenage girl in the congregation, Kelly Hansen, was part of what he hoped would be environmentalism at a basic level, what he called “place making,” with the church a shaping force.

“We’ve been trying to sort out how we flesh out a future in this community,” Mr. Goodwin said. “Instead of ‘How do we get people in here?’ It became ‘Let’s get ourselves out there.’ ”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Growing Obsession: Rare Seeds

From our friend Yasoda-Dulal, who says...

For those of my friends who like to garden, a useful article on seed exchanges where you can get seeds of rare plants not found in nurseries or catalogs. And they are really cheap in most cases!

Click here to read the full article from the Wall Street Journal

"The coming weeks are high season for seed exchanges as many gardeners are preparing to start seedlings indoors to be planted outside once spring breaks. Part of the fun of surfing the seed exchanges is in recognizing names and gardens where donations come from—and the chance to plant seeds from famous gardens. The North American Rock Garden Society exchange lists more than 100 seeds donated by the New York Botanical Garden from its expeditions to the countries of Georgia and China in 2005 and 2007."

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Varnashrama College Off To A Sacred Start

New Varnashrama College off to a Sacred Start

By Gaura Nataraj Das on 16 Jan 2010

From ISKCON News

This January 4th saw the official opening of ISKCON’s new Varnashrama College, based at Sri Krishna Balarama Ksetra in Udupi, South India, near the national headquarters of the newly established ISKCON Daiva Varnashrama Ministry.

Varnashrama, a traditional vedic social structure of natural vocations and life stages, is often confused with the birth-based caste system—which Vaishnavas consider to be a missaplication of the original ancient system.

The Varnashrama College’s upcoming three-month course teaches students this original system, a vision of ISKCON’s founder Srila Prabhupada. Entitled “Land, Cows and Krishna,” the course will cover topics such as holistic farming, cow protection, and composting. It will also discuss pottery, mud-brick housing construction, manual water-lifting devices that eliminate reliance on electricity, village technologies such as oil ghani, and many other activities related to traditional occupations.

In the mornings, students will visit the fields in Sri Krishna Balarama Ksetra and other rural projects, and will learn from faculty members through observation and practical application. Meanwhile, afternoons will be spent learning the theory and ideology of Varnashrama-based living and occupations. Many international teachers will visit the College throughout the duration of the course to share their areas of expertise, and add to the students’ learning experience.

The College’s own resident faculty, present at the opening ceremony, included project overseer Bhakti Raghava Swami, agricultural manager Giriraja Dasa, Master Potter Laksminatha Dasa, and student counselor Kanai Thakura Dasa.

Also present were yoga therapist Prananatha Dasa and Sundarananda Dasa, manager of the company “Panchagavya Shala Surabhi” which produces various traditional medicines from cow dung and urine.

For now, students will observe a one-week Orientation Period, during which they will visit the neighbouring area, acquaint themselves with the details of the course, learn about some of the basic conditions of the soil and local forest, observe the various flora and fauna in the area and get to interact with fellow students and faculty members.

The course was off to a sacred start at the opening ceremony, with teacher Raya Ramananda Dasa performing a fire sacrifice to invoke auspiciousness, and the traditional “Go-Puja” being offered to resident cow Subhadra and her calf Rama.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Debate Over GM Eggplant Consumes India

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI, Feb 16 (Reuters) - The purple eggplant that Indian shopper Tanuja Krishnan picks out at a Mumbai market stall every week is an unlikely protagonist in a raging debate about whether genetically modified foods should be introduced into India.

A genetically modified version of eggplant, a staple in fiery curries, was slated to be the first GM food introduced into India in a bid to stabilise food prices and mitigate some of the effects of climate change on Indian food crop yields.

Yet, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh blocked the release of the vegetable until further notice following an outcry by environmentalists and some farmers. The opposition to GM foods was so heated that some protesters burnt effigies.

Ramesh said there was not enough public trust to support the introduction of such crops into India's food supply until more research was done to remove all doubts that GM foods were safe for consumption.

But while those from the camp that opposed GM foods are celebrating, there are concerns that rising food prices will be a major problem for Indian policymakers in the future unless the country starts embracing genetically-modified food crops.

"This is bad for the country's agricultural and biotechnology future. Our scientists have lost their credibility, companies will be unwilling to invest more money, and it will take us a long time to pick up the pieces again," said C. Kameshwar Rao, an official at the Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness & Education, a GM advocacy institute.

"Scientists can't win a shouting match with politicians."

India's farm sector has changed very little since the advent of the Green Revolution with crop yields failing to keep up with soaring population growth and rising incomes.

At the same time, damage to crops from pests and disease have worsened due to rising temperatures from climate change.


Known as Bt brinjal, the Indian word for aubergine, the GM vegetable is able to resist some pests responsible for devastating crops across India thanks to a gene from soil bacteria called 'bacillus thuringniensis' (Bt).

The thought of eating a genetic hybrid has made consumers such as Krishnan wary. "I would try it to see if it tastes any different, if it has fewer pests, but I think I would prefer organic brinjal just to be safe," she said.

The moratorium against the release of the GM eggplant followed harsh criticism by environmentalists and farmers who demanded rigorous testing and labelling standards before Bt brinjal was cultivated.

"Stringent monitoring measures should be immediately put in place to ensure that no releases of GM crops happens," said Rajesh Krishnan, a manager for sustainable agriculture at Greenpeace India.

India's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) opened the way for the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal last October, seven years after approving Bt cotton, which is now grown on more than 80 percent of total cotton area.

Thanks to genetically modified cotton, India has become the world's second largest cotton producer and exporter after China, with about 5 million farmers growing Bt cotton.

"Our experience with Bt cotton has showed the technology has benefited the farmer, the consumer and the states' economies," said Bhagirath Choudhary, head of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) in Delhi.

"We have a solid case in Bt cotton, with higher yields, double the output and less use of insecticide. But the technology is so sophisticated, the general public is ignorant about it." India is among the top biotech crop growing countries, trailing only Argentina, Brazil and the United States.


India is the world's second largest producer of eggplant after China and the vegetable is also used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes and hypertension.

About 1.4 million farmers grow eggplant, which is very susceptible to pest attacks. Farmers tend to spray the crop with pesticides 30-50 times during a crop cycle.

"The brinjal we eat now is more harmful because of the pesticide residue," said Raju Shetty, a farmer leader in western Maharashtra state and a member of parliament.

He supported Bt brinjal because he said "it will cut the cost of pesticide and boost yields. That's what farmers are seeking".

Even though the GM seeds for the vegetable would likely cost three times the price and farmers would need to purchase seeds for every sowing rather than reusing crop seeds, proponents say the extra expenses would be compensated by lower pesticide costs and less devastating crop loses.

Expanding India's food supply is crucial in a country of one billion people, with predictions the population might reach 1.4 billion by 2025.

The United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organisation has said food production will need to double by mid-century to meet demand from a growing world population, prompting calls for a second Green Revolution.

But Greenpeace maintains GM crops are a costly distraction from tackling hunger through fighting poverty and helping small holders in developing countries sell their products.

A combination of changing diets, a growing population, demand for farmland for industrialisation and high energy prices have stoked food prices globally, including in India, where the food price index rose 17.56 percent in the 12 months to Jan. 23.

India is also battling with lower crop yields and more pests and plant disease because of higher temperatures, raising concerns that India's farm output could lag demand and the world's second most populous country will become a large food importer unless crop yields jump.

Some economists and scientists in India favour a raft of policy initiatives, including genetic engineering, to improve yields and increase resistance to pests, disease and drought.

"You have a large population that's growing in affluence, but our resources -- land, water, cheap labour -- are all shrinking, so we have to increase output quickly and efficiently," said Gyanendra Shukla, director of Monsanto India Ltd.

"I don't see any other option but GM crops."

Since Monsanto launched the world's first GM crop in 1996, more than 25 countries have taken to biotech crops including soybean, corn, tomato, squash, papaya and sugarbeet.

Bt brinjal was developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co (Mahyco) under licence from Monsanto, and estimates show economic benefits from higher yields could top $400 million a year.

GEAC has also approved studies of GM okra, tomato and rice, but opponents say GM should be a last resort.

"You can't simply abandon all other solutions, including organic farming, to focus just on biotechnology when the testing, labelling and enforcement standards are so inadequate," said Kushal Yadav, an official at the Centre for Science and Environment.


Aside from health and safety concerns, critics worry that the widespread use of GM crops will put India's food supply largely in the hands of a few giant corporations that make the seeds.

There is also the possibility of genetic contamination if the Bt genes cross pollinate with other varieties.

A recent report by U.S. health and environment protection groups said that rather than reduce the use of pesticides, genetically engineered crops had actually prompted increased use of these chemicals, caused an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds and resulted in more chemical residues in foods.

A backlash against the technology also appears to be growing globally, with consumer resistance to what British tabloids have dubbed "Frankenfood" taking root.

Even advocates in India admit genetically modified crops are no magic bullet.

"Bt can't be the panacea for all the problems in Indian agriculture. But if we miss this, we miss the chance to usher in a new technology, see how it can help us," Choudhary said. (Additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav and Sujoy Dhar; Editing by Megan Goldin)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Is There An Ecological Consciousness?

Click here to read the full piece from the New York Times

But it rubs up against a fundamental problem of ecopsychology: even if we can establish that as we move further into an urban, technological future, we move further away from the elemental forces that shaped our minds, how do we get back in touch with them?

That question preoccupied Gregory Bateson, a major influence on eco­psychologists and something of a lost giant of 20th-century intellectual history. Bateson, an anthropologist by training, conducted fieldwork in Bali with Margaret Mead, his wife of 14 years, in the 1930s, but in midcareer he moved away from conventional ethnology and began conducting studies in areas like animal communication, social psychology, comparative anatomy, aesthetics and psychiatry. But what most interested Bateson, as the title of his 1972 book “Steps to an Ecology of Mind” suggests, were complex systems.

It was Bateson’s belief that the tendency to think of mind and nature as separate indicated a flaw at the core of human consciousness. Writing several years after Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” at a time when the budding environmental movement was focused on the practical work of curbing DDT and other chemical pollutants, Bateson argued that the essential environmental crisis of the modern age lay in the realm of ideas. Humankind suffered from an “epistemological fallacy”: we believed, wrongly, that mind and nature operated independently of each other. In fact, nature was a recursive, mindlike system; its unit of exchange wasn’t energy, as most ecologists argued, but information. The way we thought about the world could change that world, and the world could in turn change us.

“When you narrow down your epistemology and act on the premise ‘what interests me is me or my organization or my species,’ you chop off consideration of other loops of the loop structure,” Bateson wrote. “You decide that you want to get rid of the byproducts of human life and that Lake Erie will be a good place to put them. You forget that the ecomental system called Lake Erie is a part of your wider ecomental system — and that if Lake Erie is driven insane, its insanity is incorporated in the larger system of your thought and experience.” Our inability to see this truth, Bateson maintained, was becoming monstrously apparent. Human consciousness evolved to privilege “purposiveness” — to get us what we want, whether what we want is a steak dinner or sex. Expand that tendency on a mass scale, and it is inevitable that you’re going to see some disturbing effects: red tides, vanishing forests, smog, global warming. “There is an ecology of bad ideas, just as there is an ecology of weeds,” Bateson wrote, “and it is characteristic of the system that basic error propagates itself.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Blogging Hare Krishna Valley in Australia

I just thought I would give you a brief report on what has gone on at Hare Krishna Valley in recent months. We have planted pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes, which will all be ready for harvesting in the near future. Manigriva prabhu has been delivering our organic produce to the Melbourne temple on a weekly basis.

We have all but completed the kitchen renovation, and it has turned out to look like a first class catering facility. This has allowed us to register the kitchen with the Surf Coast Shire. The main things that are left to do are to put in a new vinyl floor and replace the cover of the rainwater tank. Mahajana prabhu has kindly offered to supply the flooring for this job.

We have also completed the garden along the front of the temple building, which also looks quite impressive. We have had a number of WWOOFers and other volunteers helping us in the last few months, and this has allowed us to get alot done and make the place look presentable for guests. Three of the volunteers who stayed with us left chanting Hare Krishna on a regular basis, and are preparing to return again soon.

The New Garden

We have now begun the big task of painting the temple building. Hopefully with enough help we should be able to complete this task in a few weeks, and then begin painting the inside of the building.

We have also hosted two successful retreats with His Holiness Devamrta Swami and His Holiness Prahladananda Swami. All those who attended were pleased with the improvement in the facilities, and with the friendly community at Hare Krishna Valley. The Sunday feast in January saw almost 50 guests and congregational members gather for this festive event. We also managed a successful catering event at the Tranquility festival at Ocean Grove with the help of our enthusiastic congregation.

We are planning to post a regular report on our blog to keep all of you informed of progress and events at Hare Krishna Valley.

We look forward to seeing you down here soon.

Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Kesava dasa.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ISKCON's Eco-Valley Project At The Copenhagen Climate Summitt

ISKCON’s Eco-Valley Project at the Copenhagen Climate Summit

By Krishna-lila devi dasi (Krisztina Danka, PhD.) on 16 Jan 2010

From ISKCON News

Recently, ISKCON News reported that about nine devotees were arrested while chanting Hare Krishna outside the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. However, it should also be remembered that ISKCON had another type of presence at the Conference—with a much more fortunate outcome. While his fellow devotees were waiting for their fate to be decided at the police station, Radha Krishna Dasa (Zoltan Hosszu) from Hungary, oblivious of the events going on outside, was giving one of his five official presentations about ISKCON’s Eco-Valley project at the Climate Bottom Meeting: this time to dozens of curious Chinese environmental specialists.

The international meeting of civil activists and spiritual and religious leaders to which Radha Krishna Dasa, as director of the Eco-Valley Foundation, was invited, was held parallel to the big climate summit, aiming to influence and offer “windows of hope” to the political leaders. In fact, the decision-makers gathered in Copenhagen frequently attended the Bottom Meeting’s events, lectures, exhibitions and films where they learned about a number of sustainable cities and eco-village initiatives, as well as other fresh ideas to overcome the world’s ecological, social, spiritual and economic challenges. Many of them heard Radha Krishna’s presentation about the Eco-Valley farm community in Hungary, an internationally known and appreciated eco-village project that is based on the spiritual principles of sustainability established by the ancient Indian scriptures, the Vedas.

Following the instructions of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Eco-Valley (or Krishna-valley) was established in 1993 by ISKCON leader Sivarama Swami and a handful of dedicated devotees. Their aim was to create a community where members of each household can lead a sustainable, environment-friendly and God-centered life. Sixteen years later, there are 150 devotees living on 550 acres of beautifully cultivated land. They have built sixty-three buildings including a new temple, family homes, cow stables, a school, an art studio, a bakery, a guesthouse and several new roads. They grow their own grain, fruits, herbs and vegetables, and have planted 250,000 trees, which give shade to tens of thousand of tourists visiting and learning from them each year. The Eco-Valley community is 100% self-sufficient when it comes to food, producing ten times more grain and seven times more honey than its residents actually need. Their biggest challenge for the next couple of years will be to increase their energy sufficiency by planting more windmills and solar panels and taking advantage of the geothermic energy sources.

Although the Hungarian Eco-Valley project is considered to be one of the world’s most successful self-sustaining communities, Radha Krishna Dasa says that there are many similar eco-villages around the globe. ISKCON itself has several dozen, but unfortunately, it appears, there is not enough communication and cooperation between them.

“The Copenhagen Climate Conference was a great venue to meet similar-minded, dedicated people,” Radha Krishna says. “It inspired me even more to reach out and exchange ideas with all those who are willing to work together for a better future.”

Then, the question naturally arises: with all the good intentions, valuable presentations, yearlong negotiations and enormous efforts by thousands of people from all over the world, why did the Copenhagen Climate Summit ultimately fail?

Radha Krishna Dasa explains that as long as the main considerations of the politicians remain closely connected to economic gain or loss, there will be no breakthroughs in solving the critical environmental problems. “Unfortunately, the leaders of society are very reluctant to inspire people to change their habits and live more responsibly, get out of their cars and consume less. What to speak of asking them to become vegetarians and shutting down the slaughterhouses, which are responsible for 51% of the world’s greenhouse gas emission, and are even more polluting than cars.”

According to Radha Krishna, there are no shortcuts or easy ways out. The only solution is a substantial change of consciousness on the individual level: each and every person`s commitment resulting in actions towards a more sustainable life. “We should all pull our heads out of the sand, for one is not only responsible for what he does, but for what he does not do.”

Visit the Krishna-valley’s official website at

Watch a 3-minute excerpt from the Krishna-valley documentary screened at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Natural Gas Royalties To Improve Hare Krishna Community

By Keri Brown for West Virginia Public Broadcasting on 2 Feb 2010
Image: Keri Brown
Marshall County residents review drilling leases at "lease signing party."

From ISKCON News

On Sunday, dozens of people including members of the Hare Krishna community got together in Marshall County to sign over their natural gas rights. They see it as a way to invest in their community.

More residents in the Northern Panhandle area are being approached by natural gas companies to drill on their properties because of rich Marcellus shale reserves in the Appalachian Basin.

More than 50 people gathered at the Limestone Fire Hall in MarshallCounty for a “lease signing party” to seal the deal with Ohio-based AB Resources.

The area includes around 8,000 acres in MarshallCounty, with about 2,000 acres in the Hare Krishna Community, New Vrindaban.

Ralph Seward is one of the landowners who agreed to the deal.

“The most awesome thing is there are two different types of leases a drill lease and a non-drill lease, but here since we negotiated as a block everybody gets the same amount of money and that is great. I have a non-drill lease and I’m pleased, my wife is pleased we get the money same amount as if they were drilling on our property,” said Seward.

For the past several years, the Hare Krishna community near Moundsville has been struggling to find ways to refurbish its treasures like the Palace of Gold and its worshipping temple. The Palace of Gold has some crumbling concrete and metal fixtures that need replaced. The temple needs a new roof and doors.

Krishna member Gabriel Fried said the money received from the lease agreement will help rebuild the Krishna community.

“We want very much to refurbish temple area, the housing but more than that we want to do it in an environmentally friendly way. We have plans on doing bulk purchases of solar hot water heaters; we were just discussing that here in the building and solar panels, wind generation.

"We are very excited about doing this and using this money to help stimulate the economy on an ecological level and to be able to make us self-sustaining as possible,” said Fried.

The lease agreement includes $2,500 an acre and 18 3/4 percent of the gas royalties. The money also will be used to improve the community’s organic garden. Terry Sheldon manages the Krishna’s small farm training center.

“Some of these monies will be used to promote apprentice programs and the presence of cows in a farm community means guaranteed fertility in a community and when you have fertile soil you have social security so the money will be used to create housing and infrastructure enhance our cow protection program,” said Sheldon.

Fried said the Krishna’s plan to plant hundreds of nut trees on their property. Future plans even include building a holistic health clinic with the royalties. The Krishna agreement also includes drilling 400-feet below where the community pulls its water from.

In the mid 1980’s, there were more than 600 Hare Krishna members living in the New Vrindaban community. Today, that number is about 200.

AB Resources Vice President, Mark Van Tyne said his company tailored the 19-page agreement to meet the needs of the Krishna’s and surrounding community.

“We agreed not run trucks when school buses run. Also, will be putting in a water and fluid line to bring frack water to locations instead by truck piping it in and water that is produced from well will be moved through those same lines to an area to avoid truck traffic,” said Van Tyne.

AB Resources said it has also agreed not to run its trucks during busy tourism holidays for the Krishna’s including Mother’s Day weekend, Labor Day and the Fourth of July. The agreement also includes more financial protections or “shut-in fees” for lease signers when oil and gas companies close a well.

For the past three years, the West Virginia Surface Owner's Rights Organization, headed by Charleston attorney David McMahon has introduced bills to protect property rights. The bill has failed to pass, but McMahon said he is getting ready to introduce a new, scaled down version to lawmakers.

“Before they file their permit and before they come on to the land we want to let us know they are coming on to the land and provide us with statutes and the Surface Damage Compensation Act and the Reclamation manual, so surface owners know what they are doing.”

“This year, we will take out the requirement that the companies sell us gas from the well, the companies were adamantly against that and they were also against increasing damages from market value to current use value and so we are probably going to take that out and give it one more try to get a surface bill passed,” said McMahon.

McMahon is also pushing for oil and gas companies to use more horizontal drilling techniques to reduce the number of vertical wells placed on people’s property.

As for the Hare Krishnas, they plan to start renovations in the New Vrindaban community this summer.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Climate Killers

Meet the 17 polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb global warming

Click here to read the full article at Rolling Stone.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Govardhana Hill Finds A New Heritage

From Express Buzz

MATHURA: American landscape experts, who are drawing up a conservation plan for Mount Govardhan -- significant in Hindu mythology -- feel the hill deserves to be recognised as a world heritage site."Goverdhan hill is unique in the world, visited by more than ten million people annually. However, its ecosystem is in a shambles, the water bodies have been destroyed and the green cover almost disappeared,"

Amita Sinha of the Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, US, told IANS.Sinha and her team have completed a weeklong study of Goverdhan hill, which Lord Krishna is believed to have lifted on his little finger to protect residents from the wrath of Indra the god of rain.The study is to be presented to the university and the Braj Foundation, which is currently engaged in the restoration of ancient heritage sites in the entire Braj Mandal area in and around Vrindavan, Mathura and Agra, filled with references to Lord Krishna.

The team will prepare a watershed map of the hill. They have identified vegetation patterns, surveyed historic and other structures, observed pilgrimage rites and conducted interviews with pilgrims and resident devotees.A member of the team told IANS: "The experience was truly amazing. The information we gathered through intensive interaction with pilgrims, priests and the ordinary people helped us work on a holistic project keeping the spiritual and cultural features of the area in mind."

The team will come out with a detailed report in August.The report will be useful in putting together a conservation plan for Mount Govardhan that will be taken forward by The Braj Foundation in association with the Uttar Pradesh government for getting Govardhan Hill world heritage site status, said Raghav Mittal, project director at Vrindavan.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Meat Makes The Rich Ill And The Poor Hungry

Click here to check out the whole Viva! guide to meat-eating and global hunger

by Jeremy Rifkin

When representatives meet at the World Food Summit they supposedly focus on how to get food into the mouths of nearly one billion people who are currently undernourished. However, at all the dinners they attend you can expect to see the consumption of large quantities of meat. And herein lies the contradiction.

People go hungry because much of arable land is used to grow feed grain for animals rather than people. In the US, 157 million tons of cereals, legumes and vegetable protein – all suitable for human consumption – is fed to livestock to produce just 28 million tons of animal protein in the form of meat.

In developing countries, using land to create an artificial food chain has resulted in misery for hundreds of millions of people. An acre of cereal produces five times more protein than an acre used for meat production; legumes such as beans, peas and lentils can produce 10 times more protein and, in the case of soya, 30 times more.

Global corporations which supply the seeds, chemicals and cattle and which control the slaughterhouses, marketing and distribution of beef, eagerly promote grain-fed livestock. They equate it with a country’s prestige and climbing the “protein ladder” becomes the mark of success.

Enlarging their meat supply is the first step for all developing countries. They start with chicken and egg production and, as their economies grow, climb the protein ladder to pork, milk, and dairy products, then to grass-fed beef and finally to grain-fed beef. Encouraging this process advances the interests of agribusinesses and two-thirds of the grain exported from the USA goes to feed livestock. The process really got underway when “green revolution” technology produced grain surpluses in the 1970s. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation encouraged it and the USA government linked its food aid programme to the producing of feed grain and gave low-interest loans to establish grain-fed poultry operations. Many nations have attempted to remain high on the protein ladder long after the grain surpluses disappeared.

Human consequences of the shift from food to feed were dramatically illustrated during the Ethiopian famine in 1984. While people starved, Ethiopia was growing linseed cake, cottonseed cake and rapeseed meal for European livestock. Millions of acres of land in the developing world are used for this purpose. Tragically, 80 per cent of the world’s hungry children live in countries with food surpluses which are fed to animals for consumption by the affluent.

The irony is that millions of consumers in the first world are dying from diseases of affluence such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer, brought on by eating animal products, while the world’s poor are dying from diseases of poverty. We are long overdue for a global discussion on how to promote a diversified, high-protein, vegetarian diet for the human race.

Jeremy Rifkin is the author of Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture (Plume, 1992), and The Biotech Century (Victor Gollancz,1998). He is also the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington DC, USA.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Food For Life Heads Into Center Of Haiti "Disaster Zone"

By Madhava Smullen on 7 Feb 2010
FFL volunteers distribute meals at the Dr. Dario Contreras Hospital in Santo Domingo.

From ISKCON News

With the Haiti death toll reaching 200,000, Hare Krishna Food For Life Global has just joined a convoy of trucks accompanied by the military, heading into the center of the carnage caused by January 12th’s devastating earthquake.

The ISKCON non-profit organization plans to complement the work of larger relief organizations such as the Red Cross, CARE and OXFAM, helping to feed the 300,000 survivors made homeless and desperate for food and water.

Food For Life will be working in close coordination with local relief workers of the Haitian-Dominican Chamber of Commerce, under its President Rosa Maria Garcia. It will also work in cooperation with the Ministry for Defense, who will provide protection from the frequent assaults on relief agencies that have taken place due to desperation.

“We feel very confident now that we have this military protection in Haiti,” says FFL Project coordinator, Richard Higgins. “This first mission into the disaster zone will give us first hand knowledge of what we are up against.”

To tackle one of the major challenges faced by all aid agencies—sanitation—FFL Global has partnered with New Directions Foundation, which specializes in sanitation solutions. “Haiti is extremely unsanitary at present,” explains Higgins. “There is sewage all over the ground.”

Meanwhile, FFL volunteers are already distributing freshly prepared vegan lunches to earthquake survivors being cared for in Santo Domingo’s Dr. Dario Contreras Hospital.

And more volunteers keep arriving to assist. Flying into FFL’s Santo Domingo base on January 27th, Vaikuntha Krishna Dasa and Robin Laing of England’s Bhaktivedanta Manor joined about 30 other volunteers from the USA, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, the UK and the Dominican Republic.

“I didn’t even think about whether I would go or not—straight away my heart went for it,” says Vaikuntha Krishna, whose first relief mission was in 2004, cooking for 2,000 survivors of the Sri Lankan Tsunami per day. “It is a human instinct to help people, that’s all I thought about.”

Food for Life Global is coordinating yet more volunteers to arrive soon from Slovenia, South Africa, Mexico, USA, and Canada over the next few weeks. “Our goal is to set up kitchens in government controlled and secured camps in Haiti,” explains FFL director Priyavrata Dasa.

Food For Life now has a plane waiting in Florida to fly in bulk organic produce, grains and other supplies such as a mobile water purifying system from partner Water for Life Global. Yet food and transportation costs are high, and FFL are asking for donations to fund their efforts.

“Your donations are still crucial at this stage of the development, and we sincerely thank all who have already come forward to support us,” Priyavrata says. “Please continue to give whatever you can and remember: Food For Life can serve more than 100 meals in a crisis like this for as little as $25. So your dollars will go a long way.”

To donate to Food For Life’s Haiti relief efforts, please visit The Lotus Trust or Food For Life.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Teaching Green, Beyond Recycling

Click here for the full article from the New York Times

Jose Chirino, a 10th grader in Brooklyn with shoulder-length hair and a thin mustache, says flatly that his high school was his last choice.

At the Growing Up Green Charter School, the day’s lesson was how the local environment affects food choices

“They’re experimenting on us,” he said, recalling his first impression of the Green School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which laces an environmental theme into most of its coursework.

Jennifer Auceda, 17, was similarly wary, given that she wanted to be a singer and never saw herself as a “science person.”

“I thought it was going to be about the inside of trees,” she said.

But the two reluctant recruits, who had both failed to get into the high schools they favored, said they were won over after realizing that the school casts a wide net.

Rather than simply covering predictable topics like recycling and tree planting, they say, it has alerted them to problems like sooty air and negative media representations of their neighborhoods.

“Green is not just the environment,” Jennifer said. “It’s politics, government, social justice.”

“We do a lot of things other schools are not doing,” said Jose, 15. “I feel like we’re doing something important.”

While plenty of city schools, from elementary to secondary, teach students about environmental issues like endangered species or global warming, places like the Green School put an overwhelming emphasis on civic involvement.

The students are encouraged to delve into local issues that may affect them and their families, like contamination in waterways like the Gowanus Canal, water quality or the razing of low-scale housing.

“You can’t have a kid in a violent neighborhood and say, ‘Let’s talk about the polar bear,’ ” said Karali Pitzele, one of the school’s two co-directors.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Veggie Pride Parade Is Coming!

SUNDAY, MAY 16, 2010

Volunteer now!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Living Near Green Lowers Anxiety, Depression

From our friend Madhava Ghosh's blog "View From a New Vrindaban Ridge"

“In all directions of Dvaraka City, wherever one would turn his eyes he would find green parks and gardens, each of them filled with trees and plants laden with fruits and flowers. Because there were so many nice trees of fruits and flowers, all the sweetly chirping birds and buzzing bumblebees joined together to make sweet vibrations. The city of Dvaraka thus fully displayed all opulences. “

Krishna Book 90: Summary Description of Lord Krsna’s Pastimes

Living Near Green Lowers Anxiety, Depression Rates, Study Finds

By Kristen Hallam

Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) — People living near gardens, parks and other green spaces have lower rates of anxiety, depression and poor physical health than those living in urban areas, Dutch researchers found.

The scientists reviewed the medical records of more than 345,000 people in the Netherlands and calculated the percentage of green space near the patients’ homes. For those with 10 percent of green space within a 1-kilometer radius of their homes, the prevalence of anxiety disorders was 26 out of 1,000 people, according to the study. In a residential area that was 90 percent green, the prevalence was 18 out of 1,000.

Better health may stem from access to fresher air and more opportunities to relax, socialize or exercise, though more research is needed to confirm those theories, said Jolanda Maas and colleagues at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. Expanding green spaces may help prevent chronic illnesses that cost billions of dollars to treat each year, they said.

“The role of green space in the living environment for health should not be underestimated,” they wrote in the study published in the British Medical Journal’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. “Most of the diseases which were found to be related to the percentage of green space in the living environment are highly prevalent in society and in many countries, they are the subject of large-scale prevention programs.”

The study also found fewer cases of depression, heart disease, back pain and asthma among those living near green spaces. The link between green space and health was strongest for children and people with low incomes, who are less mobile and spend more time closer to home, the study found.

The research was funded by a grant from the Netherlands Organization forScientific Research.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

As The World Burns

Click here to read the full piece at Rolling Stone

Our collective response to the emerging catastrophe verges on suicidal. World leaders have been talking about tackling climate change for nearly 20 years now — yet carbon emissions keep going up and up. "We are in a race against time," says Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Washington who has fought for sharp reductions in planet-warming pollution. "Mother Nature isn't sitting around waiting for us to get our political act together." In fact, our failure to confront global warming is more than simply political incompetence.

Over the past year, the corporations and special interests most responsible for climate change waged an all-out war to prevent Congress from cracking down on carbon pollution in time for Copenhagen. The oil and coal industries deployed an unprecedented army of lobbyists, spent millions on misleading studies and engaged in outright deception to derail climate legislation. "It was the most aggressive and corrupt lobbying campaign I've ever seen," says Paul Begala, a veteran Democratic consultant.

World's Healthiest Food



So what’s the most scrumptious, wholesome, exquisite, healthful, gratifying food in the world?

It’s not ambrosia, and it’s not even pepperoni pizza. Hint: It’s far cheaper. A year’s supply costs less than the cheapest hamburger.

Give up? Here’s another hint: It’s lifesaving for children and for women who may become pregnant. If you know of a woman who may become pregnant, make sure she gets this miracle substance.

A final hint: It was a lack of this substance that led to a tragedy that I encountered the other day at a hospital here in the Honduran capital. Three babies lay in cots next to one another with birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

In the first cot was Rosa Álvarez, 18 days old and recovering from surgery to repair a hole in her spine. She also suffers from a brain deformity.

In the next cot was Ángel Flores, soft tissue protruding from his back.

Closest to the door was José Tercera. His mother unwrapped a bandage on his head, and I saw a golf-ball-size chunk of his brain spilling out a hole in his forehead.

The doctors believe the reason for these deformities, called neural tube defects, was that their mothers did not have enough micronutrients, particularly folic acid, while pregnant. These micronutrients are the miracle substance I’m talking about, and there’s scarcely a form of foreign aid more cost-effective than getting them into the food supply.

“It’s unnecessary to have these kinds of problems,” Dr. Ali Flores, a pediatrician and expert on these defects, said as he looked over the three babies.

If a pregnant woman does not have enough folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) in her body at the very beginning of her pregnancy, then her fetus may suffer these neural tube defects. That’s why doctors give folic acid to women who plan to become pregnant.

Equally important is another micronutrient, iodine. The worst consequence of iodine deficiency isn’t goiters, but malformation of fetuses’ brains, so they have 10 to 15 points permanently shaved off their I.Q.’s.

Then there’s zinc, which reduces child deaths from diarrhea and infections. There’s iron, lack of which causes widespread anemia. And there’s vitamin A: some 670,000 children die each year because they don’t get enough vitamin A, and lack of the vitamin remains the world’s leading cause of childhood blindness.

“In the early stages of life, the die is cast,” said David Dodson, the founder of Project Healthy Children, an aid group that fights micronutrient deficiencies in Honduras and other poor countries. “If a child is not getting the right micronutrients, the effect is permanent.”

Nine years ago, Mr. Dodson was simply an American businessman running a 300-employee waste company that he had founded. Then he happened to visit Honduras and, in a hospital, encountered a mother whose newborn baby had a hole in the skull. He learned that negligible amounts of folic acid would prevent such heartbreaking defects — and his life was transformed.

“I had never seen anything in my life that could have so much impact for so little money and be sustainable,” Mr. Dodson said. He and his wife, Stephanie, sold their company and used some of the proceeds to start Project Healthy Children.

The most cost-effective way to distribute micronutrients isn’t to hand them out. Mary Flores, a former Honduran first lady who is active in nutrition, notes that impoverished women can be hard to reach, and even if they are given folic acid pills they sometimes won’t take them for fear that they actually are birth control pills. So micronutrients instead are often added to such common foods as salt, sugar, flour or cooking oil.

Adding iodine, iron, vitamin A, zinc and various B-complex vitamins including folic acid to a range of foods costs about 30 cents per person reached per year. Groups focusing on micronutrients also include Helen Keller International and Vitamin Angels.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has required that flour be fortified with folic acid since 1998. Even in America, with better diets, medical care and widespread fortification, not all women get enough micronutrients, but the problem is far worse in poor countries.

Mr. Dodson notes that it is much cheaper to prevent birth defects than to treat them.

“It’s not a sexy world health issue, but it’s about the nuts and bolts of putting together a healthy population,” Mr. Dodson said. “Putting small amounts of iron, iodine and folic acid in the food supply hasn’t drawn attention the way it does when you treat someone who is sick or in a refugee camp. Until recently, this has been off everybody’s radar screen.”

As the United States reorganizes its chaotic aid program, it might try promoting what just may be the world’s most luscious food: micronutrients.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sacred Cows or Sacred Cars?

Click here to read the full piece from Dandavats

by Bala Krsna Das

I would like to take you on a journey, and am going to ask you to please fasten your seat belts.

We are going to time travel a few years into the future, to a small village, to take a little tour.
As we arrive in the village we are struck by its serenity and cleanliness, and the vitality of its residents, including the children, the women, the elders, and the cows. Oxen pull carts and cows graze within the village, and other oxen pull farm implements in the nearby small fields. We discover that the village is inhabited almost entirely by devotees of Krsna.

As we make inquiries we learn that this village was started by disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and that there are even a few of those pioneers still living in the village.

In the centre of the village is a temple, and we are invited to go there first to see Radha and Krsna. After seeing the Deities in the temple we are offered maha Prasad sweets made from milk from cows that live in the community. Continuing our tour, we are taken next to the community school where we see happy children in the playground.

A little further down the road we are shown an anaerobic composting digester that transforms biomass, including both human and animal manure, into high grade compost, methane, and CO2. The compost, we learn, is used to enhance the soil in the fields and gardens, and the methane is used for heating and cooking. The CO2 is harnessed to enhance growth in the adjacent greenhouses. Everything in the village gets recycled, including especially the biomass left from harvested fields, which is seen as a great asset.

We observe solar panels on the rooftops of most buildings. Our guide then shows us the microhydro turbines that are hooked into nearby streams.

Near the border of the village is a parking lot where there are several buses, cars, and small trucks. Two of the buses, we learn, have brought visitors to this now famous self-sufficient village. Another bus belongs to the village, and is used by the community for going to local towns for sankirtana, and for going to Rathayatra festivals in the big cities. Sometimes the bus is used by the village school for taking students on field trips. We also learn that the families in the village cooperatively own several cars and trucks to be used for their occasional trips outside the village. Using the hemp grown by farmers in the village, they are able to produce all the fuel needed to drive these vehicles.

This ends our short tour, and we prepare to return to the present. Hopefully we will return again to find out more about the history and dynamics of this wonderful place, but at least we have been able to observe some of the highlights. One of the deepest impressions we take with us is the presence and importance of cows in the village and how much they are obviously loved by all the villagers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pressure Rises To Stop Antibiotics In Agriculture

From our friend Ananda's blog "Servant Of The Servants"

FRANKENSTEIN, Mo. – The mystery started the day farmer Russ Kremer got between a jealous boar and a sow in heat.

The boar gored Kremer in the knee with a razor-sharp tusk. The burly pig farmer shrugged it off, figuring: "You pour the blood out of your boot and go on."

But Kremer's red-hot leg ballooned to double its size. A strep infection spread, threatening his life and baffling doctors. Two months of multiple antibiotics did virtually nothing.

The answer was flowing in the veins of the boar. The animal had been fed low doses of penicillin, spawning a strain of strep that was resistant to other antibiotics. That drug-resistant germ passed to Kremer.

Like Kremer, more and more Americans — many of them living far from barns and pastures — are at risk from the widespread practice of feeding livestock antibiotics. These animals grow faster, but they can also develop drug-resistant infections that are passed on to people. The issue is now gaining attention because of interest from a new White House administration and a flurry of new research tying antibiotic use in animals to drug resistance in people.

Researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year — more than prostate and breast cancer combined. And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs went to pigs, chickens and cows. Worldwide, it's 50 percent.

"This is a living breathing problem, it's the big bad wolf and it's knocking at our door," said Dr. Vance Fowler, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University. "It's here. It's arrived."

The rise in the use of antibiotics is part of a growing problem of soaring drug resistance worldwide, The Associated Press found in a six-month look at the issue. As a result, killer diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and staph are resurging in new and more deadly forms.

In response, the pressure against the use of antibiotics in agriculture is rising. The World Health Organization concluded this year that surging antibiotic resistance is one of the leading threats to human health, and the White House last month said the problem is "urgent."

"If we're not careful with antibiotics and the programs to administer them, we're going to be in a post antibiotic era," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, who was tapped to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year.

Also this year, the three federal agencies tasked with protecting public health — the Food and Drug Administration, CDC and U.S. Department of Agriculture — declared drug-resistant diseases stemming from antibiotic use in animals a "serious emerging concern." And FDA deputy commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein told Congress this summer that farmers need to stop feeding antibiotics to healthy farm animals.

Farm groups and pharmaceutical companies argue that drugs keep animals healthy and meat costs low, and have defeated a series of proposed limits on their use.

Read rest of the story here - link

Monday, February 1, 2010

Devotees Pray For Yamuna's Future With Global Kirtan

Devotees Pray for Yamuna’s Future With Global Kirtan

Written by Madhava Smullen and originally posted at the ISKCON News website on January 27th, 2010.

Hundreds of thousands of devotees, holy men and pilgrims will gather for the Vrindavana Kumbha Mela, taking a ceremonial dip in the sacred Yamuna River at Keshi Ghat on Saturday January 30th.

The event is held once every twelve years, alongside the official Kumbha Mela, which rotates between the holy places of Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.

The Vrindavana Mela, held in the village where Lord Krishna appeared on earth 5,000 years ago, and at the river where He once bathed, is always special. But in recent times, there has been an added urgency to the participants’ prayers.

Devotees say that the sanctity of Vrindavana, and especially of the Yamuna River, is in danger. Among other efforts, ISKCON’s second-generation—known as “Kulis”—have launched “Global Kirtan for the Yamuna River,” a prayer which is offered with the intention to save the future of the Yamuna River and Vrindavana in general, and which they will synchronize with ISKCON Vrindavana’s 24-Hour Kirtan chanting program.

This year’s event is the second in a series of Global Kirtans. Organizer Krishna Devata McComb introduced the first in November 2008 after a trip to Vrindavana revealed how much the sacred village had changed since her childhood.

“I was born a Krishna devotee and first bathed in the Yamuna when I was five years old, with my two-year old brother Bala Gopal,” she says. “I have very precious memories of that time.”

The next time Krishna Devata returned to the Yamuna in 1998, it was to offer Bala Gopala’s ashes into its waters. The sacred river offered her solace in her grief at her brother’s passing, as she offered incense, flower garlands, and petals into it and then bathed in the water herself.

“Bathing in the Yamuna is a tradition of transformation, rejuvenation and purification,” she says. “Yet today, we see this place of deep personal prayer and meaning under heavy construction, with its waters diverted, and sewage and garbage being dumped into it. When I visited the river recently with my own daughter and son, who were the same ages as Gopal and I had been when we first bathed there, it was shocking to see how much had been lost in only one generation.”

According to Krishna Devata, many holy sites related to the Yamuna have been covered and displaced from its banks. The tree at Chir Ghat, where Krishna is said to have enacted His pastimes with the Gopis, is now hundreds of yards from the Yamuna, and the view of the holy river has been replaced by the on-ramp of a by-pass highway. The focus of development in Vrindavana, Krishna Devata says, has become service to the automobile rather than to God.

Perhaps the development currently taking the most prominence is a bridge being constructed alongside the Yamuna. Started back in May 2008, the project is intended to facilitate a 130km pipeline through Vrindavana, Mathura and Agra, which will provide water in areas that have been battling a shortage for decades.

It’s essentially a good cause. However, local and international devotees and environmental activists, working under the Save Yamuna to Save Vrindavan campaign, are saying that the implementation needs to be rethought. “They are destroying nature and culture,” said environmentalist Swami Sewak Sharan. “Ordinary folks in Vrindavan have no voice while the ‘developmentalists’ are out to murder a rich heritage.”

Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority Vice Chairman R.K. Singh denied the charges and claimed they had been raised by people who do not understand development or environment. “They are just obstructing,” he said. “We have got proper studies done. The Keshi Ghat was any way crumbling. The bridge is a little distance away from the ghat. Pointless controversies are being raised.”

PWD Chief Engineer C.D. Rai added, “The bridge on the river does not affect environment in any manner, nor does it obstruct the flow of the river. We will later take up the renovation of the Keshi Ghat.”

But devotees and Vrindavana residents say that the developers have not revealed the full plans of their project to the community and show no sensitivity to the historic sacred site. The bridge will facilitate traffic to Delhi, Agra, and the Taj Mahal, and they fear that the noise, dirt and pollution will render Keshi Ghat a place that’s no longer peaceful for spiritual reflection.

“Some solutions include restoring water flow to ancient ghats, garbage management and water-treatment, although it will take collaboration and care from tourists and residents of Vrindavan to create lasting change,” Krishna Devata comments.

She admits that much of this is beyond her understanding or capacity to impact. However, what she can do is bring people together to make them aware of Yamuna Devi’s plight, and to unite their voices in prayer—in a Global Kirtan.

The January 30th event is backed by the Kuli Mela Association, which organizes ISKCON second-generation festivals and projects around the world, and which Krishna Devata is a founding member of. Other entities lending their support include World Prayer and Kirtan Day, Mandala Publishing, World Vaisnava Association, UNESCO, Sri Sri Radha Raman Temple, Save Yamuna to Save Vrindavan campaign, and many participating ISKCON Temples.

The Global Kirtan concept is that people “think globally and pray locally.” So far over one hundred locations around the world—in India, Canada, the United States, Europe, South America, South Africa, the Carribean, and Russia—have confirmed their participation, holding kirtans which will coincide with the Vrindavana Kumbha Mela and 24-Hour kirtan at the Yamuna River.

Many of these participants are ISKCON temples and preaching centers, while some are home programs, yoga studios, book-stores, and sanga groups. Some 24-hour kirtan events—such as those in Radhadesh Belgium, Hillsborough North Carolina, and one hosted by Radhanatha Swami in Mumbai—were prescheduled, yet their organizers decided to dedicate their prayers to the Global Kirtan cause.

“Because this is about calling attention to the current condition of the Yamuna River, which affects many people from many different lines and faiths, this is a call-out to all who will answer,” says Kuli Mela Association member Chaitanya Mangala. “The mood is one of openness and inclusiveness—this is an opportunity for everyone to come together and share in a time of solidarity.”

Those participating will include many well-known kirtan singers: Gaura Vani and As Kindred Spirits will perform at the ISKCON temple in Brooklyn, New York; Karnamrita will perform in Durban, South Africa; The Kirtaniyas will perform in Los Angeles; and the Mayapuris will perform in San Francisco.

“At this auspicious time of Vrindavana Kumbha Mela, sadhus, yogis and pilgrims of all kinds and from all traditions will gather to honor the Yamuna River,” says Krishna Devata. “On the full moon, thousands will simultaneously bathe in the river in a huge act of devotion and peace—chanting, dancing, and honoring Yamuna Devi together.”

Already, she says, kirtans are sounding in tents along the Yamuna, and puja and prayer offerings are being made.

And it looks like the prayers are already being answered. On January 21st , an Uttar Pradesh High Court Order was issued stating: “Until further order of the Court, the respondents are directed to stop further constructions over the bridge which is being constructed along side river Yamuna and other illegal constructions on the land which falls between the ghats and river Yamuna on both the sides and to stop dumping of garbage in river Yamuna or its bank. Respondents are further directed to ensure that no constructions are raised in the aforesaid area by any person.”

Devotees are preparing themselves for a further hearing at the High Court on February 23rd. Until then, their prayers for their beloved Yamuna River will resound across the globe.

The Global Kirtan organizers can be contacted at:

Or join the Global Kirtan Facebook group here.

Add your name to the petition against building a bridge at the Yamuna below: