by Bruce Mason
• Humanity is awakening to the dire straits in which it finds itself. On many fronts, grassroots movements are searching for solutions to myriad, mind-boggling problems and battling corporate greed that is rapidly choking life on the planet.
For more than three decades, Common Ground has bucked this tide, informing and engaging our 250,000-strong, rapidly growing readership in making healthy, positive life choices. Equally important are our invaluable advertisers. Publisher Joseph Roberts says, “Freedom of the press is only guaranteed when people buy ads.” As you page through this issue, please take note of our friends and supporters who make this magazine possible.
In Ontario, the Minister of the Environment denied a request to regulate an environmental assessment of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa stating, “The public interest does not warrant an Environmental Bill of Rights review by the ministry.” Ann Slater, Coordinator for the National Farmers Union in Ontario, responded to the news, saying, “We expected the Ministry to respond to the specific request made and in a review seek the evidence necessary for it to fully understand the implications of releasing GM herbicide tolerant alfalfa into the Ontario environment. We are very disappointed that, instead, it has decided to stand aside from this important public question. Dave Lewington, one of the two Ontario farmers who requested the assessment on behalf of many in the province, added, “We don’t want it or need it and we will not surrender to the interests of big seed and biotech companies.” .
The 13th annual conference Media Democracy Days (MDD) takes place November 8-9. “It’s been quite a year for those concerned about democracy,” says Dr. Kathleen Cross, chair of the Media Democracy Days organizing committee and Assistant Professor of Communication at SFU. “We have seen numerous cases where information that should be public is being restricted while information that should be private is exploited. These events have demonstrated the importance of investigating who collects and controls information and for what purposes. Now, more than ever, we need media that are not afraid to ask these question.” See www.mediademocracydays2013.ca for a full list of events.
StopSmartMeters.ca is gaining support in BC for an Initiative vote on smart meters, similar to the successful referendum that obliterated the Harmonized Sales Tax. All objective evidence indicates BC Hydro’s Smart Meter program is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle. The public monopoly’s ill-conceived program is beset by technical troubles, with spotty coverage in terrain-challenged rural areas and “microwave leakage” of rapidly oscillating energy onto decaying power lines and household wiring.
Here’s a quote from the site: “The technical challenges are the least of Hydro’s problems. While most British Columbians are yet unaware of the scientific evidence showing health risks associated with electromagnetic radiation (EMR) exposure from wireless smart meters, almost everyone knows that the program will not save us any money or reduce electricity consumption. Hydro bills are now hammering inflation-challenged households into candlelight and cold beans with unremitting rate hikes that will make the Fast Ferries fiasco resemble a yard sale of unwanted bathtub toys while our electricity consumption is not lowering.” www.stopsmartmetersbc.ca
On November 5, residents of nearby Washington state vote on whether or not foods containing genetically engineered organisms should be labelled. If the bill passes, it will make Washington the third state to require GMO labelling. The bill, Initiative 522 or I-522, has proven to be as controversial as a similar bill defeated in California last year. Opponents of I-522 have raised over $17 million to fight it and most of that cash comes from food makers and major agribusiness firms like Monsanto.
Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the trade association to disclose its contributors. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) complied listing 34 members, covering the gamut of processed and packaged food brands. The list included Campbell’s ($265,000), Ocean Spray ($55, 313), Bumble Bee Foods ($36,000) and Del Monte Foods ($86,576). Top contributors include PepsiCo, Inc. ($1.6 million), its soft drink rival the Coca-Cola Company ($1 million) and Nestle USA, Inc. ($1 million).
Supporters of the labelling initiative have raised about $7 million for their campaign. Organizations that have come out in support of the bill include the Organic Consumers Association and the Consumers Union.
Among the encouraging news at press time was the rally of hundreds of people at New Westminster Quay protesting the proposed massive increase in US thermal coal shipments through Surrey, Texada Island and Georgia Strait on their way to China. For more information, visit www.communitiesandcoal.com
“The truth will set us free, all of us,” said Jack O’Dell in the August issue of Common Ground, which celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Jack is the featured speaker at “Raising Peace, Fighting Oppression” at Canadian Memorial United Church, (corner of 15th and Burrard), November 10, 10:30AM. The service also features The Universal Gospel Choir
Finally, Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris, featured in last month’s issue, earned the prestigious Americana Music Association’s Album Of The Year and Duo/Group of the Year awards for their collaboration on Old Yellow Moon.
“Rodney and I, maybe we’re just arrogant but we feel like we were Americana before it got a name,” Harris told the massive crowd and media at the five-day festival. Crowell added, [the recognition] “means that we’re still able to do what we started doing and I think, better. We’re still standing.”