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Archive for March, 2009

 By Richie Gerber

Me in my No Nukes Shirt...1979
Me in my No Nukes Shirt…1979. Copyright Richie Gerber

I can’t believe it was 30 years ago today that there was a meltdown in the core of the Three Mile Island Nuclear-Power Plant. March 28, 1979 will go down as a day of infamy for all time. The nations worst commercial nuclear accident and not such a good day for Julie and Richie either.

At the time we were living peacefully on our organic farm in rural Maine far away from any dense population centers. Julie and I moved from Brooklyn, New York to get away from all the problems that city life presents and live close to the land in an unpolluted idyllic environment. We moved to rural Maine to grow our own organic vegetables and live the good life.

On March 28, 1979 a partial meltdown of the core of Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island Generating Station occurred and a large plume of this toxic material traveled north over Maine. We did not know about the toxic plume at the time so there was nothing we could do to protect ourselves. Luckily it happened early in the morning so we were in the house at the time. It shows that we are all interconnected and that pollution somewhere hundreds or even thousands of miles away can seriously affect us innocents downstream.

I was so angry. I wrote a song, Radiation, in 1979 to vent this anger and frustration. You can listen to my song below. It is a protest song expressing my anger. I wrote the words and music right after the incident. I got a few musician friends together and went into a small recording studio in Waterville, Maine. The song’s message is still right on target even after 30 years.

Ep-Bee-Log: The cause of the meltdown was attributed to both technical malfunctions and human error. Here we were away from it all  on our organic farm in rural Maine and yet the toxic plumes found us. It goes to show that you can’t run or hide from nuclear contamination, even if it is not in your backyard. 

 

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Courtesy of Lynn Cohen Cole

Courtesy of Lynn Cohen Cole

By Richie Gerber

Just when you think things can’t get worse…the esteemed Congresswoman from Connecticut, Democrat Rosa DeLauro introduced H.R. 875 in February. H.R. 875 is called the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, but a more accurate name is THE END OF MOM AND POP FARMING IN AMERICA 2009 aka DEATH TO ORGANIC FARMING.

As you can see I am fuming mad. Julie and I have been involved in the organic movement since the early 70’s with our organic farm in Maine.  Throughout the 80’s and 90’s we sold huge amounts of organic produce in our Bread of Life Natural Foods Stores & Restaurants. We help pass the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) by educating our customers of its importance. DSHEA has been instrumental in giving people access to supplements.

So what’s the problem with H.R. 875 you may ask? It establishes a “Food Safety Administration” within the Department of Health and Human Services. This new department would “protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.”

The bill defines a “food production facility” this way:

The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

So that would include…

*All organic farms

*All small farms

*All family farms

*Even small family gardens if you sell any produce to your neighbor

The effect of this bill is to make it extremely difficult if not impossible for small family farmers to comply with the new bureaucratic set of laws. Mountains of paperwork as well as new fees put a huge burden on these Mom and Pops farmers. Even if they just want to sell some tomatoes at their roadside stand or in the local farmers market. The legislation favors the large agro-industrial complex since they have the people to file the paperwork as well as the money needed for the additional fees.

Who is Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and why would she introduce HR 875? Her husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto, one of the giant multi-national agro-industrial complex corporations who are in favor of this bill. Is this starting to smell like manure yet? Some of the other giant players like ADM, Sodexo and Tyson are for the bill as well. Here is what Wikepedia says about Monsanto, “The Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) is an American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the world’s leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as “Roundup”. Monsanto is also by far the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed, holding 70%–100% market share for various crops. Agracetus, owned by Monsanto, exclusively produces Roundup Ready soybean seed for the commercial market. In March 2005, it finalized the purchase of Seminis Inc, making it also the largest conventional seed company in the world. It has over 18,800 employees worldwide, and an annual revenue of USD$11.365 billion reported for 2008.[2]”

This stinking legislation would add additional costs and headaches to every farm, some fishing boats, slaughterhouses, processing plants, CO-OPs and anyone else associated with growing, storing, transporting or processing plants to name a few. Violators can face multi-million dollar fines. It’s true. I am not kidding.

In Maine Julie and I used to buy our eggs from a small farmer with a couple dozen hens. We bought our milk from a farmer with a handful of cows. Our honey and maple syrup came from some small farmer as well. Now all these small Mom and Pops will have to fill out piles of paperwork online and pay the fees. You and I know it is virtually impossible for the small guy to survive in this environment. Only the large corporations can fully comply with these unusually high and unfair extra burdens.

Ep-BEE-Log: We all need to yell and scream to our congressmen and elected officials. We need to let everyone know that we disapprove of this horrible legislation. Please make your voice heard before it is too late. Now is the time: Let’s Panic-Or No More Organic!!!

 

 

 

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Tires off of Fort Lauderdale Beach

Tires off of Fort Lauderdale Beach

By Richie Gerber

Fort Lauderdale: Venice of America. What a beautiful slogan for this wonderful city in paradise. Over three hundred miles of waterways connect all parts of Greater Fort Lauderdale. Restaurants, hotels, homes and more can be reached by boat in this city of lovely canals.

 

About a mile or so north of Port Everglades, we stumble on what some call “the worst disaster to the Florida Reefs in history”. As you will soon see it was a recipe for ruin. A stupid idea, supported by stupid science and stupid scientific experts, combined with stupid local and national governmental agencies with stupid leaders, created devastation of immense proportions. Stupid businesses donated stupid money to get publicity and then the stupid media made sure everyone knew about this “wonderful project”. This horrible “reef building” experiment was lauded as a grand step forward for artificial reef building. What were they smoking?

In the spring of 1972, over two million tires were strapped together in bundles of 10 and dumped in the Atlantic Ocean in order to form an artificial reef.

Starting to sound fishy already, right?

The idea was twofold. Create an artificial reef where fish can thrive as well as increase the coral population. Snorkelers, divers, fishermen and more from around the world will come to Fort Lauderdale and frolic around in this man made underwater marvel. It also solves the problem of what to do with 2 million mosquito-infested tires in landfills while creating a man made underwater wonder. Win-win.  The old adage, out of sight out of mind, played a part in all this as well. I would edit the adage to fit into this reality, out of sight out of your freaking mind.

So, on a beautiful spring day in 1972 a Goodyear blimp dropped a gold painted tire into the ocean to “christen” the site. Goodyear also helped bind and compress the tires. In their press release at the time they said the reef would “provide a haven for fish and other species”, as well as lauding “the excellent properties of scrap tires as reef material.”  Over 100 private boats loaded with tires and volunteers set out in a flotilla to dump the first load of what would eventually end up as over 2 million tires off Fort Lauderdale’s pristine beach. Even to this day, over 35 years later, plants and coral refuse to grow on the tires. Fish refuse to swim and frolic near the tires in what was supposed to be a haven for them. It is considered by many to be a “dead zone”. Nothing. Nada. It is a desolate and eerie moonscape of a tire dump at the bottom of the ocean. A disaster.

Many of the nylon or steel straps used to belt together the tires into bundles of 10 have broken so now we have lots and lots of loose tires shifting with the currents. When the seas are rough as well as during storms and hurricanes the tires shift and travel far and wide. So the disaster is growing. Tire sprawl. Over the years the disaster site has grown. Tires are shifting in all directions spreading destruction and devastation to the neighboring reefs. The problem keeps expanding doing more and more harm to the reefs as well as leaching toxic chemicals from the breakdown of the tires. No fish, no divers, no snorkelers, no fauna can be found at this constantly expanding “Dead Zone”. It is our own underwater Chernobyl.

Ep-Bee-Log: Some efforts have been made to collect the tires but no real headway is in sight. The reason is that they might gather up a few thousand tires. Then we get a storm or rough seas and many of the remaining millions of tires just fill back in as if nothing has happened. The State of Florida along with the Army Corps of Engineers has implemented a full-scale salvage project to run through 2010 at a cost of $3.4 million. It is a very time consuming job and will produce in my opinion questionable results. I for one think they are just spinning their tires in the sand.

 

 Photos courtesy of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
 
 
 
 

 

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