Creative Commons freedom

INDEPENDENT MEDIA by Steve Anderson

WHEN I STARTED this column, I wanted to find a way to both make it free and easy for a number of groups to share it, including bloggers, small non-commercial publications and individuals, whilst also giving syndicating publications something they could stake a claim in. Luckily, I was aware of a new copyright licensing system called Creative Commons that enables just such a hybrid model of media production. Not only is it a useful tool for media producers, but it’s also an important part of the larger trend that is blurring the lines between media producers and consumers of media.

Started in 2002, the Creative Commons (CC) licensing system allows artists – professional and amateur – to copyright their work with as many restrictions as they choose, including the capacity to completely "un-copyright" their works. According to its website, "Creative Commons provides free tools that allows authors, scientists, artists and educators to easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry."

Creative Commons allows cultural producers to easily add an individually defined copyright badge to their work (usually a small graphic). These badges provide a clear indication of the specific copyright restrictions (or lack thereof) for other cultural producers and users. Big corporate media organizations use synergies and joint ventures to bring in larger audiences. Independent and online media need to create their own synergies by building and sharing audiences, drawing upon their own unique strengths. I figured what better chance to experiment than with a column focusing on the intersection between media, culture and technology.

The Creative Commons licence I use asks each organization that publishes the Media Links column (democraticmedia.ca/blog/steve-anderson) to post a statement at the end of each article acknowledging and linking to all the other syndicating publications. Creative Commons and the open Internet enable this and other new forms of collaboration and synergy.

Are we all "produsers?"

Some consider Creative Commons to be not only representative of the break from passive mediums like TV to the more interactive medium of the Internet, but also a key element of a new category of media content producers/users called "produsers." According to Axel Burns, who coined the term "produsers," the "traditional value chain of producer-distributor-consumer has condensed to a singular point, the produser, interacting with and potentially enhancing existing content." Thus, we now have produsers with "fluid roles" and perpetually unfinished media.

While media production has always been a collective process involving production ingredients from our collective cultural heritage, Creative Commons further enables (or perhaps re-enables) and encourages a greater re-mixing of a friendly media system and culture. Rather than conceiving of and distributing media items as commodities, Creative Commons (CC) encourages the production, circulation and reception of media as a continuous and shared process.

Enabling sharing

While the open sharing elements of Creative Commons’ licensing system are voluntary, according to a 2007 survey of CC users, over 80 percent of the CC-licensed works permit derivatives – meaning they allow others to build upon their media. While many medial producers and users do not yet use Creative Commons, it is becoming more popular. As of 2007, there were an estimated 60 million Creative Commons-licensed cultural artifacts on the Internet, and CC use is still increasing.

In an unprecedented move in 2007, Yahoo! announced plans to allow users to employ Creative Commons licensing in its huge menu of online spaces and tools. It doesn’t appear that the announcement has come to full fruition, but, at the very least, it means that its popular photo sharing service Flckr has remained Creative Commons friendly.

Creative Commons licensing is not limited to media production. There is also the ever- expanding open-software movement, and in the US, the Creative Commons group also recently launched a new project called Legal Commons that will "collect and make available machine-readable copies of government documents and law."

Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. Let’s just share the idea and see where it leads us.

 

Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. He contributed to Censored 2008 and Battleground: The Media, and has written for The TyeeToronto Star, Epoch Times and Adbusters. Reach him at: 
steve@democraticmedia.ca
www.FacebookSteve.com
www.SteveOnTwitter.com

Fast food for health

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

TEACHERS IN our schools are supplied with a multitude of resources from the closely aligned meat and dairy industries. These materials are designed to establish in children’s minds the idea that we must eat meat to obtain iron and that cow’s milk is essential for bone building in humans. Neither of these industry-derived fabrications is true, but if you are still haunted by these rusty facts, read the solid update concerning iron that follows. (See next month’s column for an update on calcium.)

Iron is a "precious metal" when it comes to human health. As part of our blood cells, it plays a central role in transporting oxygen throughout the body, releasing this life-giving sub-stance where needed and carrying away the metabolic waste product carbon dioxide. As part of many enzyme systems, iron also plays key roles in the production of cellular energy, immune system functioning and in the mental processes surrounding learning and behaviour.

Every day, we lose miniscule amounts of iron in cells that are sloughed from skin and intestinal walls. We recycle our body’s iron supply and those losses must be replaced. Women of childbearing age lose additional iron during menstruation. The building of new cells can deplete the small reserves of infants and children. With teens, there can be the double challenge of growth and notoriously poor eating habits (though vegetarian teens tend to eat better than non-vegetarian teens). The most prevalent nutritional deficiency in North America is that of iron and the most susceptible groups are women of childbearing age, teens and young children.

Naturally, those who experience blood loss for any reason – people with ulcers or blood donors – have increased needs and athletes have high requirements due to increased oxygen demands.

Symptoms of iron deficiency include exhaustion, sensitivity to cold, irritability and pale skin. (These symptoms may have other causes as well.) If you have doubts about your iron status, have your hemoglobin, serum iron and transferrin (iron transport protein) checked.

Iron deficiency anemia is no more common among vegetarians than non-vegetarians. While iron from plant foods is not absorbed as well as the iron from meat, vegetarian diets tend to be higher in iron and far higher in the vitamin C that helps us absorb iron from plant foods. Vegans consume even more iron and tend to replace milk, which contains no iron and also inhibits iron absorption, with iron-rich foods such as soymilk. Oranges or orange juice help us absorb iron from the tofu or soymilk in a smoothie. Sweet red pepper helps us absorb iron from chickpeas, beans, lentils or soy foods in the same meal. Kiwifruit, papaya and salad help us absorb iron from nuts, whole grains or beans when eaten at approximately the same time.

Food preparation techniques can also increase our iron absorption. These include soaking beans prior to cooking; the sprouting of grains, seeds and legumes; the leavening of whole grain breads; and the fermenting of tempeh or miso. Surprisingly, cast-iron or stainless steel cookware can contribute to our iron supply when we cook acidic foods such as spaghetti sauce or sweet and sour sauce. On the other hand, our absorption of iron is reduced when we drink black or green teas or cow’s milk with iron-containing meals. To get more iron, drink water or fruit juices that contain vitamin C with your meals.


Strike it rich with iron from plant foods

Here are some tips to maximize the iron in your diet:

  1. Eat iron-rich plant foods (especially beans, peas and lentils).
  2. Use iron-fortified foods (enriched cereals, grain products and meat analogues) and whole grains.
  3. Help your body absorb iron by eating foods rich in vitamin C at the same time.
  4. Use foods that are leavened, sprouted, soaked (as with beans) and fermented.
  5. If your iron status is low, avoid consuming dairy products and black or green teas at the same time as iron sources.
  6. Use cast-iron or stainless steel cookware.
  7. If in doubt, have your iron status checked.

Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and author based in Langley, BC. After being in writer’s hibernation for the last six months, she resumes offering consultations in mid-May. 604-882-6782.

www.nutrispeak.com

The Three Muscovies

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

IT ALL STARTED with a chance conversation about ducks at Seedy Saturday last spring, which was followed by my building lasagne gardens in the back garden that attracted banana slugs from the surrounding forest – slugs that could devour a row of spinach overnight! Quicker than you could say duck bill, I found myself the proud owner of two specially selected Muscovy ducklings, Amos and Abigail. Why? Because Muscovies have a voracious appetite for slugs.

After a mink massacred the A-generation, "The Three Muscovies," better known as Benny, Betty and Blackie (or Benny and the Jets) arrived late in November. I keep telling myself this duck thing is an experiment to see whether Muscovies are a good fit with urban farming. They lay large eggs with huge yolks, which are excellent for sponge cakes, quiches and omelettes, and Benny is a 15-pound meat bird, which makes a good Christmas dinner if you are not vegetarian or vegan.

Last year, after a sudden rampage by raccoons and mink, we lost half our flock of hens and our first two ducks. By July, I’d had enough so the five remaining hens came out to free-range until the chicken coop could be moved to fenced quarters in the back garden. Interestingly, no birds were killed while free-ranging during the day; they always return to the coop at dusk where they are safely shut in until morning.

 

Benny and the Jets on patrol

When Benny and the Jets first arrived, I bonded them to their duck house (a converted doghouse) before allowing them to free-range. The girls, Betty and Blackie, arrived with clipped wings and couldn’t fly, but Benny’s wings grew back fast and he quickly discovered the creek and pond and returned to show the Jets how to waddle down there. Although I’d read it’s a bad idea to get friendly with male Muscovies, I enjoy chatting to Benny as he plods around the garden.

Another good thing about Muscovies is they stay close to home. At dusk, I call "Benny, Betty, Blackie!" and they come up for a feed of organic layer mash. Often, they’ll spend the night on the pond safe from predators, but to keep them bonded to their duck house, I sometimes lead them there and shut them in for the night.

Benny took a fancy to Betty and she was soon nestled into a pile of spoiled hay turning 14 eggs daily for 35 days, until 11 recently hatched out. Now, we have Betty and the C-generation of 11 ducklings in the duck house and it’s all too cute for words.

So here I am in this experiment asking, "What’s next?" When the ducklings get bigger, I’ll allow Betty to take them down to the pond and hope that I get them back at night. I may lose one or two to predators during the day, but that’s why there are so many ducklings in the first place. It’s nature’s way. I have it in mind to keep a couple and to trade the rest for point of lay hens. When they are ready to leave their Mama, I’ll take them to a local poultry swap and trade them for some laying hens to get my flock up to a dozen again.

I am still learning about this breed of meaty, quack-less ducks, the most land-based of the water birds, which suits them to backyard runs with a small pond to float around in. The verdict is still out on whether or not they make good companions for the garden as I have yet to see them eat a slug. Perhaps they don’t like my huge, slimy black and banana slugs?

Still, we might be glad to have Muscovies waddling around the garden if we really need more local food on the dinner table so I am keeping on with the experiment until I come to a final conclusion. Now, what shall I call the C-generation?

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path: A 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide. She grows Seeds of Victoria at the Garden Path Centre where she teaches The Zero Mile Diet – Twelve Steps to Sustainable Homegrown Food Production and Growing an Edible Plant Business.www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath

Getting it together

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

It is not the enemy we need to conquer, but rather the polarity.

WHEN A PART of the body becomes stiff due to muscle strain or arthritis, for example, there is a loss of movement and flexibility. It occurred to me that the same could be said of our attitudes and perceptions. When we believe there is an absolute right and wrong, our minds become rigid and fixed. We are not open to other viewpoints and we absorb information selectively from the environment that is in alignment with our beliefs.

The problem with all of this is that there is no such thing as absolute right or wrong. There are only points of view. And it seems that when a point of view is paraded as a fact, it may then be used to justify all sorts of actions and behaviours.

When we watch televised interviews of people on two sides of a conflict, we see that each side only sees and believes its own perspective. The inability to recognize that there is no reality, only individual or group interpretations, results in, if not total blindness, then at the least, serious blind spots.

I am reminded of the scene where a pop machine or automatic teller is not working so the frustrated consumer hits or kicks the machine. We view this as a primitive non-solution.

How different is it when one gets angry at an opposing viewpoint and reacts with criticism, judgment and negation?

Whether we are looking at this issue within relationship or in our community, country or in the global village, it seems solutions never arrive through amplifying the polarities. On the contrary, it is conflict, dissonance and unrest that become amplified. Like the neck stiffened with arthritis, we cannot turn our head away from our own viewpoint enough to see what else might be displayed on another’s perceptual screen.

When it comes to differences, the default program in human thinking seems to be that of focusing on what the other person or side are doing, or have done, that is wrong. From there, it is a short step to good guy/bad guy thinking and before we know it we have created an enemy. Of course, everything the enemy then does is wrong, or at least suspect. The fire of hostility is created and both sides continue to throw logs upon it.

As we have seen, this can continue within and between families, nations or religious groups generation after generation. The young are taught who is good or bad and the hostility is perpetuated. Interestingly, however, even within polarized groups there will be those on both sides who simply want to live in peace and who are not interested in conflict.

What can we do? The first thing we can do is recognize that we do not have to take sides. There are enough people out there adding to the energy of polarity. Instead, we need to add our energy to those who are striving for solutions, balance, broader perspectives and civility.

We can then use our intelligence to generate win-win solutions. We can do this on a small scale within our families or on a global scale. I do believe that small-scale polarities in the home or office energetically contribute to global polarity.

Increasingly, our world seems polluted with the negative energies of war, conflict and fear. We can use our own consciousness as an energy purifier. With global technology, we can influence others throughout the world, but we must first be that which we seek to see in our world.

If we want fairness, balance and understanding, we need to give them to others. In order to do that, we first need to release our hold on the idea that anyone is right and focus instead on what it is we would like to create. We need to understand both sides before we can build a bridge to connect them.

 

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author ofGrowing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For more articles, permission to reprint and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit www.gwen.ca

Alone in space & Waterlife

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

Moon provides a wilderness setting for the exploration of the condition of man.

SCI-FI MOVIES have become increasingly indistinguishable from standard action movies, with their big bangs, superheroes and battles with hostile aliens or murderous machines. Moon, out July 3, comes from that tradition where space provides a wilderness setting for the exploration of the condition of man. Instead of special-effect whizz-bangs, it offers a quietly impressive and thought provoking story that, in its look and theme, pays homage to classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris.

Sam (great performance by Sam Rockwell) is coming to the end of a three-year contract mining Helium 3 – Earth’s new energy source – from a base on the dark side of the Moon with only a computer called GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) for company. He is desperately looking forward to returning home to see his wife and family, but with only days to go before his relief arrives, his reality starts unravelling. A mature debut feature from Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie), this is one of those films that really benefits from you knowing as little as possible about it before you see it. What I can say is that the story teases you with possibilities and plot turns as Sam is forced to confront himself in an increasingly eerie, existentialist way.

Moving closer to home, Waterlife, which tells the "epic" story of the Great Lakes, is a new documentary I’m planning on seeing (opens July 7). The 109-minute film is a poetic portrait of the Lakes, from the northern end of Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean, and the lives of some of the 35 million people that depend on the Lakes for their survival. The film, which won the Special Jury Prize for Canadian features at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto, profiles an Anishinabe medicine woman who walked 17,000 kilometres around the Lakes to sympathize with them. She also visits a village to investigate why most of the new babies born there are girls. Director Kevin McMahon spices the visuals with footage shot from the point of view of a bird, a fish and a water molecule. The soundtrack features an impressive line-up of artists, including Sam Roberts, Daniel Lanois, Phillip Glass, Brian Eno and a new song by The Tragically Hip. Gord Downie, leader of The Hip and a Lake Ontario Waterkeeper (www.waterkeeper.ca), also narrates.

The Hurt Locker, the first film from Point Break director Kathryn Bigelow in six years, is the latest in a line of war films set in Iraq. It catches the tensions and strains among the members of a bomb disposal unit as they search and disarm roadside explosives in Baghdad. Staff Sgt. James (Jeremy Renner) takes over as unit chief when his predecessor is blown up on the job. However, he quickly begins to lose the confidence of his team through his cavalier and reckless behaviour. Bigelow has been praised for her ability to convey the tension of a situation while scriptwriter Mark Boal draws on his own experiences of working as an embedded journalist within an army bomb disposal squad to imbue the film with a sense of realism. The film, out on July 10, is not an overtly political piece; it offers instead a portrait of what makes these men tick under extremely stressful and dangerous conditions.

The second Brazilian Film Festival takes place this month (July 8-12) at the Vancouver International Film Centre. The mini film fest brings together six animated shorts and eight feature-length films (four documentaries and four dramas) from Brazil. The festival is actually part of a touring fest that does a circuit of London, Miami, New York, Istanbul, Vancouver, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Buenos Aires and Canudos (Bahia). It opens with Maurício Farias’ school-set, Rio de Janeiro-based drama Veronica. (More info at www.vifc.org)

Robert Alstead made the Vancouver documentary You Never Bike Alone.www.youneverbikealone.com. He writes at www.2020Vancouver.com

GM – you’ve got a share

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola

IF YOU’RE A Canadian taxpayer, you’re now the proud part owner of a failing automobile company, thanks to the federal and Ontario governments. They’re generously giving General Motors $10.5 billion of your money for an 11.7 percent share in the company.

Former CIBC World Markets chief economist Jeff Rubin calls it an "investment in obsolescence." The author of Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization recently told Tyee news (thetyee.ca), "We should be investing in the future, not the past, making a huge capital investment to build buses and public transit."

He’s not alone in his thinking. South of the border, where the US government is giving GM a whopping $50 billion for a 60 percent share of the company, filmmaker Michael Moore wrote, "The only way to save GM is to kill GM." (see full article)

He goes on to say that doesn’t mean killing the infrastructure. "If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need," he writes. "And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we’ve allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?"

How indeed? One thing is certain: We don’t want GM to go back to "business as usual." This is a company that has fought every progressive move to improve safety and reduce the environmental impact of vehicles, from seat belts and air bags to fuel-efficiency standards. The usual argument has been that any progressive move would drive the price of cars up to the point where the company would go out of business. Well, guess what? Maybe if GM had spent more money on keeping up with the times than on lobbying and court challenges and building SUVs and Hummers, it wouldn’t be facing bankruptcy today.

GM executives have also argued in the past that the markets should dictate their actions and governments should stay out of the way, but they now seem to have made a U-turn when it comes to government involvement.

Well, we now own part of GM. Shouldn’t we have some say in what becomes of it? Will the US and Canadian governments show some imagination and foresight and turn this crisis into an opportunity?

Mr. Rubin and Mr. Moore are right. Our future is in fuel-efficient cars, buses, trains and in green energy. And even private automobiles may eventually be a thing of the past; the idea of using a tonne of metal and many litres of fossil fuel to get one person to the grocery store or work is more than a bit absurd.

We often hear arguments that a major shift in our manufacturing base is not possible; it will be too costly and take too much time. But, as Michael Moore points out, in 1942, GM quickly switched from building cars to producing planes, tanks and weapons for the war effort. The emergency we face today is no less severe; in fact, it is more so. And we have better technology now. Likewise, when the Soviet Union launched its first Sputnik satellite in 1957, the US spared no amount of money or effort to get people into space and eventually onto the moon.

And despite arguments that we can’t afford green technologies, governments didn’t have much trouble finding billions – or trillions – of dollars to bail out banks and car companies that were largely the authors of their own problems. Where are our priorities?

The need for a cleaner future is here. The technology is here. The opportunity is here. All that’s required is some will and imagination from governments and corporations. We can no longer rely on diminishing fossil fuel supplies. Our very survival depends on developing more sustainable technologies, transportation and products that don’t pollute the air, water, and soil. We don’t need more Cadillacs and Hummers. We need a new way of looking at our world.

 

Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Who gave you authority to question authority?

by Joseph Roberts

SO WE started CG in 1982 and grew it from 20,000 readers to a quarter million today. But lately what I read, think and feel, urges me to do more because the planet is in a hell of a mess and conventional media is part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Mass Media (MM) for the most part presents a narrative that reinforces the current market religion. It does not inspire people to think for themselves, MM regurgitates image and story lines from the globally controlled G20 empire (Gang of 20). Their reach is massive and they de-develop and invade countries that disobey. Political leaders and other thought leaders generally comply.

Unfortunately the modern empire’s coercion no longer just extracts resources from weaker domains, but it also has nasty side effects of destroying cultures, economies, and peoples. It has become a life-blind greed-driven juggernaut threatening the very environment that future generations need to survive. MM’s thirst for compliance bedevils a basic law of ecology: – that we need diversity to survive. If we think the same, we go down the same drain.

You name it, land, water or air, massive corporations make a profit from screwing it up. From climate change, atomic arsenals, desertication, and pollution to manufactured obsolescence, WMD and frankeinfoods, their acts are all justified by the media they own. They tell us they got it right, and that we should just keep doing what we are doing because we got the best damned democracy money can buy (give or take a few bailouts). Well, go ahead if you want to have human life destroyed on Earth. But count me out because there is a better game to play and that is called saving Planet Earth (not just Private Ryan).

It is time to take action and counterbalance the global BS media with fresh new media dedicated to questioning authority. Send me your ideas and pledge support to grow the media we need to survive as a healthy species and flourish.

Twenty-seven years ago we started Common Ground magazine and organized Vancouver’s first Walk for Peace. Now there is a new challenge and opportunity. I invite you to join me on an amazing adventure to grow media 2.0 to question authority.

Joseph Roberts
Publisher
editor@commonground.ca

Turner’s notes

by Bob Turner

MUSIC IS not only an international language; it may be the most powerful form of language because of inherent intense emotional possibilities, which can be manipulated by master composers in every culture.

Manipulation may be a charged and loaded term, but that is what artistic composers do. Listen to Handel’s Messiah, wherein Handel portrays the glory of God, or Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, wherein lost children of the holocaust are mourned in a symphony of sorrow. These masters truly believed in their work. They intended not only to encapsulate their evolving personal aesthetic, but they were also motivated to gift the experience to others, and they have been very successful at it.

The combination of raw honesty with conscience, and skill with a cultural truth of their moment in time, created not only historic works, but also galvanized those events which defined that moment in time. History has accepted their vision and continued to applaud it throughout the centuries, ensuring proof of the greatness of their art.

Looking at the 21st century, the process continues with many significant twists and turns, involving emerging fields of duplication and real-time planetary communications. Since the mid-20th century, an incline plane of marketing has ramped up to the current saturation point. Pop music exploded with meaning in the 1960s. A new breed of composer known as the "singer-songwriter" emerged with Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, outstanding examples of that form. The fact that, from a classical point of view, none of these poets could sing made absolutely no difference. They had an ability to tap into their truth and serve it up on a plate – a truth that people could grasp while being touched emotionally and deeply with a story relevant to the beliefs and cultural understandings of that era, as did the classical masters in their time.

It didn’t take long for record companies to realize there was a whole new world out there – a world with a mass market larger than ever before envisioned. The humanitarian drive of the masters was replaced by the "bottom line," which was driven not by the artistic composers, but by producers who can be described as the link between the artist and the marketplace. They were dedicated to selling a combination of replication and identity for profit.

Production music becomes an identity of consumption with a shelf life of only a few years. No one believes in much and not much is going to be remembered. Neil Young’s mantra of "following the music" is replaced with "following the money." Or, in the words of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, "You don’t really care for music, do you?"

Simultaneously, as the marketers of music are falling apart and the mould is breaking (as musical data is digitally shared on the Internet and the barrier to putting music out there is lifting), a strong and hopefully good thing will virally work its way around the world. We have the possibility of a paradigm shift. A shift from capital intensive media to a caring and compassionate world-culture where artists tell their real stories, stories which will touch the truth and enhance the lives of others, as the great masters have always done. The masters never made it in the marketplace, but they were always supported by a humanitarian ideal, institution, or patron of the times.

Let’s hope the epoch of egocentric materialism has peaked and the human race can arrive at a new common ground. What survives will not be a "trend" or an "identity." Each of us is involved in the future of the planet. The quality of choice that each individual makes will determine which way we will be going. Good luck and good night.

Good-Bye GM

by Michael Moore

I WRITE THIS on the morning of the end of the once mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

The real reason for GM’s demise

After the public’s enthusiastic reception of GM’s electric car the EV1, which the company released in the ‘90s, the corporation yanked the efficient vehicle from the market and crushed them all. The 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? exposes the journey of GM’s Electric Vehicle 1 from conception to its premature grave.

As I sit here in GM’s birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?

It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" – the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one – has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted – cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh, and that wouldn’t start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars – cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to "improve" the short-term bottom line of the corporation.

Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.

So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company’s body not yet cold, and I find myself filled with – dare I say it – joy. It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation and drug addiction to the people I grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that 21,000 more GM workers will be told that they too are without a job.

But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I know, who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM? Let’s be clear about this: The only way to save GM is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though, is another matter and must be a top priority.

Thus, as GM is "reorganized" by the federal government and the bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities and the nation as a whole:

1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices.

2. Don’t put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce – and most of those who have been laid off – employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.

3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high-speed trains for nearly five decades – and we don’t even have one!

4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.

5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

6. For the time being, have some factories build hybrid or all-electric cars (and batteries). It will take a few years for people to get used to the new ways to transport ourselves, so if we’re going to have automobiles, let’s have kinder, gentler ones.

7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.

8. Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy.

9. To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.

Well, that’s a start. Please, please, please don’t save GM so that a smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don’t throw bad money into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange odor to fill the car.

One hundred years ago this year, the founders of General Motors convinced the world to give up their horses and saddles and buggy whips to try a new form of transportation. Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine. It seemed to serve us well for so long. We enjoyed the carhops at the A&W. We made out in the front – and the back – seat. We watched movies on large outdoor screens, went to the races at NASCAR tracks across the country, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time through the window down Hwy. 1. And now it’s over.

It’s a new day and a new century. The President – and the UAW – must seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very sour and sad lemon. Sixty percent of GM is ours. I think we can do a better job.

Yours,_
Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.comMichaelMoore.com

Excerpted from axisoflogic.com. In 2002, Common Ground sponsored Michael Moore’s award-winning film Bowling for Columbine at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Also, in December 2003, CG featured Michael Moore on the cover.

 

 

Fish out of water

by Eva Lyman
Shuswap Lake Coalition, Adams River Alliance

The West Beach site and mouth of Adams river. Photo by Fred Bird.

WHEN MY husband and I first discovered the North Shuswap in 1972, it was a quiet backwater where you could get an acre of waterfront for $10,000. Commercial facilities consisted of a Lucky Dollar store and a gas station in Scotch Creek, with a few more neighbourhood groceries along the lake.

The drawing card then was the provincial park and campground in Scotch Creek. It is still one of the main reasons people come here, but in the last five years or so, development has taken off. In the past, young families with modest incomes could camp or rent old, waterfront cabins, but in 2000, things began to change. One of the first of the new developments was a row of 12 waterfront duplexes in Celista, selling for a quarter-million dollars each.

Clearly, this was a different clientele. Things have continued to change at an accelerated pace. In 2005, some of us discovered that, on each side of Shuswap Provincial Park, existing private rental cottages and camping areas were morphing into trendy condominiums costing more than half a million dollars a unit. Other luxurious duplexes have been built on the Scotch Creek waterfront more recently and the last time I checked, they were listed closer to the million-dollar mark.

What does this mean for the area and for the old-timers living on lower and middle incomes? The seasonal residents have become wealthier, clearly. A substantial proportion of them are early retirees, or pre-retirees, who plan to move to their seasonal home full-time, after they retire. This trend has not been lost on developers.

This denser development means more of everything, even sewage. We discovered the developments that were permitted – four in 2005 – had all been given permission to pipe their effluent into the lake by BC’s Environmental Protection Branch. We are not talking about insignificant amounts of effluent; the smallest amount permitted was 5,000 gallons per day, and one developer received permission to dump half a million gallons a day. That is about the same volume that the city of Salmon Arm generates from all its residents. This capacity could service the entire North Shuswap, with a year-round population of less than 4,000 people.

The pipeline for this effluent travels along Wharf Road and when local residents made that discovery, they showed up at the lake with placards. Within weeks, the demonstration resulted in a moratorium on the dumping of effluent into the lake by future, private developers. The victory, however, will be hollow if the half-million gallon permit is allowed to stand.

The functional problem here is that condo residents are still, to a large degree, seasonal. At one of our meetings with government officials in 2005, the head of Interior Health, Mr. Ken Christian stated that, under such circumstances, sewage treatment systems tend to fail when they go from a low volume flow in winter to full use in the spring and summer. This has apparently happened in at least one of the developments; a three-month start-up grace period has been permitted and this, of course, takes us through most of the summer. By sheer coincidence, an older, adjacent subdivision that takes its water from the lake by a deep intake nearby has been on a boil water advisory ever since the condominiums were built.

We are also finding out more about some of the deleterious components of even well-treated sewage. Whoever heard of phthalates a few years ago? We did not know about the persistence of pharmaceuticals, hormones and chemicals common in household use. Now we know they have "gender bender" effects, create trans-gendered as well as hermaphrodite fish and amphibians, and so on. The media run programs on the disappearing male. It’s all in the water.

Recently, another development issue has arisen: a new proposal on the site of an old private campground next to the Adams River delta and Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park to build 160 RV sites, 72 motel lodges, 46 detached motel units, three residences and four lakefront cabins, as well as an 80-seat restaurant, shops and, of course, boat moorage.

Residents were hopeful when local MLA George Abbott, the Premier and the Minister of Environment all stated that the Province would buy out the development site and add it to the adjacent park. That was in April of this year. In May, the developer began marketing his development to buyers.

The Adams River is the most significant sockeye spawning river in BC, if not the entire West Coast. Other salmon spawn here and along miles of the lakeshore as well. While some activists worry about fish farms, and quite rightfully so, are we not missing the fundamentals here? If the fish don’t spawn, or if they and the hatchlings get cut up by boat propellers, will there be any returning salmon left to be attacked by sea lice?

Lawyers in the community are currently studying details pertaining to this proposal. Local citizens hope that the Province’s plan to buy the land goes ahead, but if it does not, they are at a point when they plan to continue fighting for the salmon. This is a critical issue. Back in 1972, there was no Eurasian milfoil growing in Shuswap Lake and there was no slime on the pebbles. Today, machines are used to clear the beaches of the weeds, cutting up any unfortunate fish that happen to be swimming among them.

If sewer pipes pour 25,000 gallons of wastes into the lake on each side of this same campground daily, how clean can the water remain? How can we justify our cavalier neglect to future generations, as well as to the elders who have drank untreated lake water all their lives? This is beyond stupidity; it is criminal neglect.