Weaving a Web-like world


The other day I decided to visit the site of “Occupy Vancouver.” I found a network of service tents scattered among open spaces, filled with people engaging in what seemed like unending conversations about politics, democracy and the future. An ethos of sharing and collaborating pervaded the space and people seemed to revel in each other’s company.

Like an estimated 1,500 other cities around the world, Vancouver residents came together on October 15 to express their frustration over the greed and corruption of the one percent wealthiest people and the institutions that act in their interest.

I’ve only visited Occupy Vancouver three times, but each time it has changed and evolved. I noticed what appears to be a community that operates on co-management, collaboration, sharing, trust and overall goodwill. There’s a fair bit of complexity as well; a network of 22 committees leads the work in key areas, with major decisions being made in their General Assembly. The committees are open to anyone who shows up. In short, the space seems to function based on a gift economy where people contribute based on their abilities, desires and needs.

At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I soon realized that Occupy Vancouver reminds me of the “unconferences” I’ve attended. Unconferences are a kind of event common in the software industry. At unconferences, a topic is agreed to in advance and participants organize themselves into sessions on the day of the event. Unconferences were inspired by the non-hierarchical, collaborative nature of open-source software development and the Web in general.

In a similar way, Occupy Vancouver feels like an ongoing space infused with Web values and practices. Its structure of participation mirrors that of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which is one hundred percent produced by volunteers. While Wikipedia entries are open to be edited by any Internet user, most people participate just by viewing and maybe sharing entries; a smaller group of about 90,000 people actively edit pages and a still smaller group makes the vast majority of edits and upholds the rules.

At Occupy Vancouver, a large group of thousands of people shares material online, attends key gatherings, and engages with services. A smaller group attends the General Assembly and helps govern the space and an even smaller group puts in the daily effort needed to keep the committees and services operating. Both Wikipedia and Occupy Vancouver survive in part because they make participation easy – they let participants engage at the level they’re comfortable with and in a manner meaningful to them.

In a way, this shouldn’t be surprising. Occupiers make heavy use of online tools like Facebook, Twitter and Google maps to organize, collaborate and to get their message out. Many of those involved grew up with the Internet. To many of the occupiers, the structure of participation at Occupy Vancouver probably feels more normal than what you find in a typical workplace or educational institution.

Will it last? I have no idea, but I think these social practices are addictive and contagious. “Occupying Together” could prefigure a new kind of society where people are appreciated for their unique talents and skills, where roles are more flexible and engaging and where the world as a whole feels more like the Web.

Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. He has written for The Tyee, Toronto Star, Epoch Times andAdbusters.

Bone, muscle & kidney health

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

In the September issue of Common Ground, I reviewed research related to acid-base balance and diet. To summarize, meats, dairy products and grains are acid forming, which means that after these foods are digested and metabolized, they influence body fluids to be acidic. This is due to the particular mix of amino acids and minerals such as sulphur and phosphate.

In contrast, vegetables and fruits influence toward the slightly alkaline state our body should be in, due to the somewhat different mix of amino acids, along with potassium, magnesium and other minerals. (The sour, acidic taste of many fruits is due to compounds that are broken down during digestion and which don’t play a role here.)

Our lungs and kidneys play key roles in keeping our arterial blood within the narrow pH range (7.35-7.45) required for life and good health. This is done mainly through exhaled CO2 and by variable amounts of certain compounds excreted in our urine. If we consume excessive amounts of acid-forming foods, the body must tap its alkaline reserves in order to maintain the proper pH. North American diets are so heavily weighted in the acid-forming direction that there is an impact on our kidneys and subsequently on our muscles and bones. Consequences of our acid-forming diets can include kidney damage, kidney stones, muscle wasting and possibly the dissolution of bone.

Kidneys: After any food is eaten, digested and absorbed, compounds that are acidic or alkaline end up in our kidneys. The kidney can excrete or retain various substances in the urine to bring our pH back within the ideal range and, in the process, draw on calcium (an alkali) from bones and the amino acid glutamine from muscle to help neutralize an acid load. Calcium salts are lost in the urine and in some cases when the urine is acidic and concentrated, these settle out in the form of kidney stones.

Bones: A high intake of protein – from meat, cheese, other animal proteins – and grains increases urinary calcium. One key to preventing so much calcium from flowing out is to consume a less acidic diet. We definitely need an adequate protein intake to maintain our bones so very low protein diets are not the answer. The alkaline effects of a diet centred on vegetables, fruits and legumes appear to protect against hip fractures. Many bone- building vitamins and minerals in these plant foods help too.

Muscles: Glutamine is an amino acid in muscle protein that can help neutralize an acidic environment. The body can counteract acidosis by breaking down muscle, thereby liberating glutamine plus other amino acids that can be converted to glutamine. Amino acids are then excreted, causing an overall loss of muscle protein. A shift in diet towards fruits and veggies may minimize or slow these losses.

Aging: As we age, mild acidosis can worsen, possibly due to a decline in kidney function or to dietary changes. This may explain some muscle and bone loss that can occur.

November 8: Free Talk & Book signing with chef Joseph Forest, Banyen Books, 3608 W. 4th Ave., Vancouver, 6:30-8pm. Joseph Forest and Vesanto Melina co-authored the very new book Cooking Vegetarian (Wiley Canada).

November 23: Vesanto speaks about “Veg. Nutrition for Superb Health,” 7pm, Walnut Grove Library, 8889 Walnut Grove Dr., Langley. Visit www.nutrispeak.com

Visit Vesanto Melina’s website at www.nutrispeak.com or call 604-882-6782. See the very new Cooking Vegetarian by Joseph Forest and Vesanto Melina, Wiley Canada, 2011.

Food sovereignty

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

Around the world, tens of thousands of people are taking to the streets asking for a better reason to get out of bed in the morning. People are finding their voice because so many things need to change. It’s hard to know where to start, but for me it starts with hunger. When I know that money-hungry traders, having a field day on investment markets, are causing millions to starve, I have to speak up.

“The boom in new speculative opportunities in global grain, edible oil and livestock markets has created a vicious cycle,” Frederick Kaufman wrote in his article, The Food Bubble: How Wall Street Starved Millions and Got Away With It, published in Harper’s magazine in July. “The more the price of food commodities increases, the more money pours into the sector and the higher prices rise,” Kaufman noted.

As the World Bank indicated, an increase of only 10 percent in world food prices results in another 10 million people slipping below the poverty line. And according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) Food Price Index, overall food costs have risen 39 percent within one year. In Canada, the use of food banks rose 28 percent to the highest ever level recorded; food banks now support 867,948 people in a typical month. Despite the fact Canada’s rural communities are located in prime agricultural areas, half the food banks participating in HungerCount 2010 are located in rural communities (http://foodbankscanada.ca/documents/HungerCount)

La Via Campesina (http://viacampesina.org/en/), a coalition of more than 148 organizations advocating family farm-based sustainable agriculture, has formed in response to the growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies, facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. La Via Campesina’s principles of food sovereignty include the following:

  • Food is a basic human right. Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity.
  • Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights.
  • Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
  • Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced code of conduct for transnational corporations is needed.
  • The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, oppression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.

Over the course of two years, 3,500 Canadians participated in a groundbreaking grassroots project to define paths towards a food system that provides accessible food for all. Resetting the Table: A People’s Food Policy for Canada is based on 10 detailed policy discussion papers, which include both government policy recommendations and concrete guidelines for action. (http://peoplesfoodpolicy.ca)

The project advocates for a National Food Policy that connects food, health, agriculture, the environment and social justice. People getting actively involved in decision making creates positive solutions that will benefit the 99 percent of the people now asking for the chance to have a better future.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path, a 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide and The Zero Mile Diet: A Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food (Harbour Publishing). www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath/

Fate or will?

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Are we the masters of our own fate or is there a destiny unfolding for us? We often hear ourselves and others pondering what we are supposed to be doing in this lifetime. What is our path, what is our purpose? Some just seem to know while others can spend a lifetime trying to figure it out. Then there are those who believe we create our own reality; what we have in our lives is what we have created.

These are two paradoxical positions. I like to believe the truth lies at the heart of the paradox. In other words, I believeboth that we are the creators of our lives and that we have a destiny or purpose in our lives. It can be a little hard to get our heads around this. It is a little like a pianist who does different things with each hand, creating a beautiful composition in the process.

How does this work in life? Consider that our souls are eternal and currently manifest in physical form, housed in our bodies. Our souls are ancient and wise and have chosen to have this Earthly experience for a reason. It may be for our own growth and learning or perhaps we are to play a part in the learning experiences of others, and they in ours. The trick is we are not given this information when we arrive and there are no answer keys we can turn to. Life provides the raw material and it is for us to choose what to do with it and how to think about it.

Destiny unfolding or creators of our reality? Truth is no one knows for sure. However, if we believe a little of both, it can serve us very well. When you come from that place of being master of your fate, you can be conscious and responsible, setting goals and creating the life you want.

If you do this, yet somehow still feel unfulfilled, thinking there has to be something more, it may be your soulful or spiritual side is whispering it is time to wake up to something beyond the current life you are living that wants to find expression. Sometimes, you think you have it all figured out and suddenly things go sideways. The happily-ever-after, til death do us part relationship comes crashing down or the job disappears and we bemoan the fact this is not how it was supposed to be. Yet this may be exactly where our destiny is expressing its self. Much as we may have chosen our path, it may be that something on our soul’s agenda is overriding what we had planned.

It’s a little like downhill skiing. Sometimes, you ski in a very controlled way and other times, you just go with the hill, surrendering to it and letting it carry you. Sometimes, we plan our lives and control what happens and other times we need to surrender to what is actually happening. We can either have the attitude that sh*t happens and perhaps become angry, depressed, anxious and negative about life or we can consider the possibility that what is happening may be a kind of divine course correction that will ultimately serve our highest good whether it feels like that now or not.

Ironically, even when destiny intervenes, we can still be masters of our fate. This is because the way in which we choose to interpret and respond to what happens to us will absolutely determine the quality of our lives.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visit www.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.

Finding oneself


From The Skin I Live In with Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya

Often, when watching a feature film, the shaping hand of the director is barely noticeable. There’s a certain sameness, particularly with Hollywood stuff, in the tone and treatment of the subject, which itself is often a rehashed or plagiarized storyline. The movie could have been made by any number of directors. There’s no chance of that watching The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito), a most bizarre story of twisted obsession, which recently opened VIFF. Mixing myth, melodrama and psycho-thriller, this erotically charged study in transgression has the distinctive imprint of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar.

A seasoned Antonio Banderas plays a brilliant plastic surgeon testing a synthetic skin on a mysterious, beautiful woman (a lithe Elena Anaya) in the isolation of his luxurious home. We are left guessing as to the details of the relationship between the two characters, creating a fluid and ever-shifting understanding of their interactions and motivations. Early on, we see the doctor admiring the curvaceous, body-suited woman from his bedroom on a huge screen. It’s a decidedly odd doctor-patient relationship. But who is she? Why does he keep her locked up? Is she happy?

The title of the film could as much refer to the way the story unfurls – like peeling an onion – to reveal the answers to these questions and the woman’s relationship with the doctor. The enjoyment of the film is in the storytelling even if the plot is unnecessarily elaborate. It’s best seen without previously watching the trailer which, as usual, gives away far too much or, for that matter, having read the reviews.

Walking the Camino de Santiago, the medieval pilgrim trail across the North of Spain, can be a transformative life experience. In The Way, father-and-son team Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen follow in the footsteps of hundreds of thousands of others, crossing the 800-kilometre Camino from the Pyrenées on the eastern border, across the grinding flatlands of the Spanish Meseta in central Spain, through the rolling hills of Galicia in the West to arrive at the wonderfully preserved medieval city of Santiago de Compostela.

The drama they shot en route has been described as an “uplifting road-movie-on-foot.” Sheen plays Tom, a grumpy US doctor, who comes to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, to collect the remains of his son who has been killed in an accident at the start of the walk (writer-director Estevez also plays Sheen’s on-screen son). Instead of returning home, Tom decides to honour his son by carrying his ashes the length of the Camino. As he walks, Tom finds himself unexpectedly drawn to other pilgrims – played by Deborah Kara Unger, Yorick van Wageningen and James Nesbitt – each of them dealing with their own personal problems, and re-evaluating his “Californian bubble life.” I haven’t seen it myself yet, but a reliable source tells me it captures the spirit of the pilgrimage well.

Finally, congratulations to the VIFF award-winners this year: tense Iranian drama A Separation (Rogers People’s Choice Award); Harry Belafonte biopicSing Your Song (Most Popular Documentary); Hudson Bay set People of a Feather (Environmental Film Audience Award); intense one-night-stand drama Nuit #1 (Shaw Media Award for Best Canadian Feature); energy policy critique Peace Out (NFB Most Popular Canadian Documentary); Tibetan road journey The Sun-Beaten Path (Dragons and Tigers Award for Young Cinema); We Ate the Children Last (Canadian Short Film), and fatherhood comedy Starbuck (Most Popular Canadian Film).

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

New for your health


food bar

Organic Food Bar

Organic Food Bar started the RAW organic movement back in 1997 and launched the very first RAW organic bar in a wrapper. Today, they still lead the industry by making their bars fresh daily in their own GMP-certified facility, which is also organic and kosher-certified and solar powered. They also use FSC-certified paper for their boxes (from sustainable forests). This makes them the “Greenest” bar company; they care for the environment and future generations. 800-246-4685, www.organicfoodbar.com

SISU Ester-C® Energy Boost

The next generation of Ester-C® is finally here: Ester-C® Energy Boost is a non-effervescent vitamin drink mix with a refreshing natural orange flavour. Each convenient “to go” stick packet pours easily into any bottle (or glass) of water and provides 1000 mg of clinically proven Ester-C vitamin C, plus the added benefits of other vitamins, minerals and electrolytes to keep busy, active people feeling their best and performing at their peak. When you’re on the go, bring your water to life with SISU Ester-C Energy Boost. 800-663- 4163 or visit sisu.com


Allevian provides anti-inflammatory and pain relief of chronic arthritis. Promotes joint mobility and flexibility. A synergistic formula that combines several maca root extracts with cat’s claw bark extract developed to deliver fast results. A proprietary blend of 3 maca extracts: fresh raw red-purple maca extract, fresh raw black maca extract and raw gelatinized maca extract. The combination of different extraction methods and maca varieties ensures the broadest spectrum of potent phytochemicals. Allevian is 100% natural with no binders, excipients or additives added. Also available: Allevian Pet. 800-304-1497, www.healthmatterscanada.com


Cal-Mag: Liquid ionic magnesium

Calcium and magnesium need to be liberated from the molecules they are bound to by enzymes in the stomach and once again be ionized to be absorbed. As we age, our digestive capacity and its ability to liberate calcium and magnesium ions become less and less efficient. Liquid ionic calcium and magnesium, however, provide the body with a concentrated pool of already pre-ionized calcium and magnesium, which is absorbed via the ion channels that exist within human cell membranes. 250-868-9972,www.biofrequencyconsulting.com


Rub Ease
Canada’s most effective and fastest acting pain relief cream

Newco’s Rub Ease (formerly Glucosamine Rub) targets pain and inflammation from head to toe. Helps ease sprains, strains and muscle aches. It contains Arnica Extract for bruising as well as Glucosamine Sulphate, Chondroitin Sulphate & Hyaluronic Acid to help regenerate and protect joint tissue. Fortified with MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane), this cream also includes Menthol and Methyl Salicylate for their topical analgesic attributes and Peppermint Oil for its warming and cooling properties. 60ml, 120ml, 240ml. Available in health food stores across Canada. 1-800-726-4155, www.organicteatreeoil.com


A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945 – by Isao Hashimoto

Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a beautiful, undeniably scary time-lapse map of the 2053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998, beginning with the Manhattan Project's "Trinity" test near Los Alamos and concluding with Pakistan's nuclear tests in May of 1998. This leaves out North Korea's two alleged nuclear tests in this past decade (the legitimacy of both of which is not 100% clear).

Each nation gets a blip and a flashing dot on the map whenever they detonate a nuclear weapon, with a running tally kept on the top and bottom bars of the screen. Hashimoto, who began the project in 2003, says that he created it with the goal of showing"the fear and folly of nuclear weapons." It starts really slow — if you want to see real action, skip ahead to 1962 or so — but the buildup becomes overwhelming.

Rule of Law in an Age of Terror – Parts 1 & 2

These two videos are courtesy of Pasifik.ca – Community Media & Perpetual Polls – The Essence of Direct Democracy.

Dennis Edney, who was Omar Khadr's Lawyer for eight years, talks about the "War on Terror", his visits to Guantanamo to see Omar where witnessed the continued building of that illegal prison, and his frustration with the Canadian public's apathy to allow this to happen.