Monday, March 28, 2016

What will happen to Cuba's sustainable [although not perfect] Agroecology ???

Since reading glowing News Reports lately over the thawing of cold war relations between the United States and Cuba where both sides will soon be holding hands singing "Oh Lord Kumbaya" together, I personally find more interesting news is emerging that is shedding light on Cuba's Agroecology & the benefits discovered by peasant farmers being forced to adapt to the abrupt end of Soviet era dependence with regards synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. They basically had to fend for themselves after communism's collapse and revert back to a more localized group of numerous smaller farms working together in urban farming for the benefit of their fellow citizens. 

Melanie Lukesh Reed (Aug 2015)

Visiting an Organopónicos farm, Alamar Cuba

When I think of Cuba, I think of older 1940s & 50s automobiles and trucks, 1930s era Art Deco styled buildings , etc. While I'm not overly interested in the ideological and philosopical historical squabblings of both sides, I am fascinated by the successes of peasant farmers who've been forced out of necessity to be more self-reliant, creative and innovative because they were forced to go that direction. So my interest lays more with something the peasant farmers have done in Cuba. They call them, Campesino-to-Campesino, which means farmer to farmer. A sort of cooperative infrastructure on a social scale. From the 1990s, out of shear necessity “Agroecology Revolution" was developed as a means of supplying food to their nation. Cuba’s farmers shifted to organic fertilizers, traditional crops and animal breeds, diversified farming with crop rotations, and non-toxic pest controls emphasizing the use of beneficial plants and insects. And it's that use of beneficial plants and insects that intrigue me the most. I've noticed this in a number of photographs posted over the internet where numerous biodiverse flowering perennials are grown which in turn attract not only polinators, but also important predatory insects. Below is one example photo of one of the neighbourhood urban farms with beneficial plants grown in among and around crop plants.

 Photo by Noah Friedman-Rudovsky

There was an article in the online journal of "The Conservsation" which highlighted the potential dangers to Cuban agriculture as a consequence of more normalized relations between the United States and Cuba. First the history they referenced about how Cuba developed agroecology out of necessity after the Soviet system collapsed after the welfare gravy train aid from their Soviet friends all stopped.

The government devoted 30 percent of agricultural land to sugarcane for export, while importing 57 percent of Cuba’s food supply. Farmers relied on tractors, massive amounts of pesticide and fertilizer inputs, all supplied by Soviet bloc countries. By the 1980s agricultural pests were increasing, soil quality was degrading and yields of some key crops like rice had begun to decline.
When Cuban trade with the Soviet bloc ended in the early 1990s, food production collapsed due to the loss of imported fertilizers, pesticides, tractors and petroleum. The situation was so bad that Cuba posted the worst growth in per capita food production in all of Latin America and the Caribbean.
But then farmers started adopting agroecological techniques, with support from Cuban scientists.   
Thousands of oxen replaced tractors that could not function due to lack of petroleum and spare parts. Farmers substituted green manures for chemical fertilizers and artisanally produced biopesticides for insecticides. At the same time, Cuban policymakers adopted a range of agrarian reform and decentralization policies that encouraged forms of production where groups of farmers grow and market their produce collectively.

Cuban Produce Market - image by Nancy & Joseph Gill (May 2012)

How Peasant Farmers Made Agroecology Farming a Success
As Cuba reoriented its agriculture to depend less on imported chemical inputs and imported equipment, food production rebounded. From 1996 though 2005, per capita food production in Cuba increased by 4.2 percent yearly during a period when production was stagnant across Latin America and the Caribbean.
In the mid-2000s, the Ministry of Agriculture dismantled all “inefficient state companies” and government-owned farms, endorsed the creation of 2,600 new small urban and suburban farms, and allowed farming on some three million hectares of unused state lands.
Urban gardens, which first sprang up during the economic crisis of the early 1990s, have developed into an important food source.   
Today Cuba has 383,000 urban farms, covering 50,000 hectares of otherwise unused land and producing more than 1.5 million tons of vegetables. The most productive urban farms yield up to 20 kg of food per square meter, the highest rate in the world, using no synthetic chemicals. Urban farms supply 50 to 70 percent or more of all the fresh vegetables consumed in cities such as Havana and Villa Clara.
The Paradox of Cuban Agriculture - Stats on productivity
The Risk of a Marriage Alliance with America's Industrial Agriculture
Now Cuba’s agriculture system is under increasing pressure to deliver harvests for export and for Cuba’s burgeoning tourist markets. Part of the production is shifting away from feeding local and regional markets, and increasingly focusing on feeding tourists and producing organic tropical products for export.   
President Obama hopes to open the door for U.S. businesses to sell goods to Cuba. In Havana last Monday during Obama’s visit, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signed an agreement with his Cuban counterpart, Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, to promote sharing of ideas and research.
USDA - March 2016: Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Historic Agreements for U.S.-Cuba Agriculture Sectors
“U.S. producers are eager to help meet Cuba’s need for healthy, safe, nutritious food,” Vilsack said. The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, which was launched in 2014 to lobby for an end to the U.S.-Cuba trade embargo, includes more than 100 agricultural companies and trade groups. Analysts estimate that U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba could reach US$1.2 billion if remaining regulations are relaxed and trade barriers are lifted, a market that U.S. agribusiness wants to capture.

November 2015.  US Department of Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Alabama
 Congresswoman Terri Sewell tour a Havana farmers' market

Here is what has happened with other poorer developing countries who form alliances with industrial Ag Business Interests
When agribusinesses invest in developing countries, they seek economies of scale. This encourages concentration of land in the hands of a few corporations and standardization of small-scale production systems. In turn, these changes force small farmers off of their lands and lead to the abandonment of local crops and traditional farming ways. The expansion of transgenic crops and agrofuels in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia since the 1990s are examples of this process.
Is there really any need to rehash what has happened with the health and damage to both man and nature in those South American countries, or the increased wealth obtained by industrial nations corporate entities ? Nature and poor people are the real losers. It never has been about just wanting to feed the world.
If U.S. industrial agriculture expands into Cuba, there is a risk that it could destroy the complex social network of agroecological small farms that more than 300,000 campesinos have built up over the past several decades through farmer-to-farmer horizontal exchanges of knowledge
Then as the article further states, the richness of biodiversity would ultimately disappear as it has in South American agriculture. So also would the diversity of crops marketed. Industrial Ag loves monocultures that they can control.
This would reduce the diversity of crops that Cuba produces and harm local economies and food security. If large businesses displace small-scale farmers, agriculture will move toward export crops, increasing the ranks of unemployed. There is nothing wrong with small farmers capturing a share of export markets, as long as it does not mean neglecting their roles as local food producers. The Cuban government thus will have to protect campesinos by not importing food products that peasants produce.

You can read the rest of the article (Here). The ugly unsustainable topic now with most all of the well established giant Biotechs and new comer Biotech wannabes is something called Bio-Diesel for an energy hungry consumer planet where everyone wants a piece of the 'good life' pie in hopes of upgrading their lifestyles. Nothing wrong with that, but to satisfy those needs it is proposed that there are a number of plants around the globe which which hold promise for the world's bio-fuels. They would fill the bio-diesel need for all the world's consumption needs. Well at least partly. It would require millions more acres of raw land to be developed [this means more wildlands need sacrificing] into more industrial monoculture behemoths. And with all that land there would also be huge water requirements, far more than they are already wasting and scraping the bottom of the barrel now. Let's face it, these people have no clue on what the real solution is, but the potential for a fistful of them to enrich themselves off these phony schemes seems worth the gamble to them. But hey, with all that science-based, peer-review and Consensus behind them, they'll sure give it a try. Sad thing is most people will blindly fall for this propaganda. But then a handful will learn from the Cuban experiment and hopefully create their own version of biomimetic success. Look at what the prevailing Scientific Orthodoxy has brought us below. Who should you really believe ?

Some frightening history not to forget when it comes to resisting the Anglo-American World Power's quest to stay that way
Some time back around the middle of 2014, several journals came out exposing the US government's efforts to pressure the Central American country of El Salvador to purchase Monsanto GMO seeds or face a withholding of foreign aid. I'll simply let you read the accounts for yourself:
U.S. Government To Pull Foreign Aid In El Salvador For Refusing Monsanto Seeds
The US Wants To Force GMO Seeds On Salvadoran Farmers, But They're Resisting: Report
US pressures El Salvador to buy Monsanto's GMO seeds
Evidently the Public Relations flack was so negative that the US Embassy down there El Salvador posted an explanation on their website as to why they were legally justified in taking the tough position on this:
So the justification here for their position was a little trade agreement between the USA & Central American countries & Dominican Republic called CAFTA-DR. I doubt many even remember this. But it may sound vaguely familiar to the one with the USA, Canada & Mexico called NAFTA. Lately there are others notorious trade agreements making the News, but you may remember that with NAFTA the sale of American Farmer government subsidized corn hurt many of the indigenous peasant maize farmers throughout Mexico who could not compete with the American's cheap corn. The US response was purchase and grow America's GMO seeds and synthetic chemicals and get bigger harvests which would offset the lower corn prices. While the P.R. on all these agreements is that it's for the good of the people and their economy, historically this is never how things work out. Many of these countries now have buyers remorse. So who knows what Cuba may be getting themselves into when signing on the dotted line. Quite simply this is how this world now works. Like everything else going haywire around the globe, this is now the "New Abnormal."
Update April 1, 2016:
U.S. companies make case for keeping Cuba organic

Some Interesting Reading References you can track on your own
The Conversation: Cuba’s sustainable agriculture at risk in U.S. thaw
The Slate: What Cuba Can Teach Us About Food and Climate Change
The Campesino-to-Campesino agroecology movement of ANAP in Cuba: social process methodology in the construction of sustainable peasant agriculture and food sovereignty
The agroecological revolution in Latin America: rescuing nature, ensuring food sovereignty and empowering peasants
Lessons from Cuba - Cuba's Surprise Harvest

Friday, March 25, 2016

What makes the grass greener at "Vineyard Golf Club" ???

“We have a weed here or there,” he said unapologetically.
Image from Vineyard Golf Club

Vineyard Golf Course's Club House
Another incredible example of a large commercial enterprize rejecting the conventionally practiced, science-based, peer-reviewed methods of maintaining a part of the Earth's landscape without the use of synthetic inputs. There was an article in the New York Times back in August of 2010 about a golf course architect  named Jeff Carlson who attempted to do what no one else had really done with regards large commercial golf course installation and maintenance. That was of course a strict organic approach. Here is what the Vineyard Gold Club's website has to say after all this time:
"Today the Vineyard Golf Club stands as a tribute to what can be accomplished through persistence, collaboration and creativity. Working hand in hand with the local regulatory agencies, naturalists and organic experts from around the world, Carlson and the Grounds Team have established, and continue to maintain, what is reputed to be the most environmentally-sensitive golf course in the world."
But I loved the actual account as related in the New York Times and I'll repost it here because I find that the Adverstisements and other online junk their pages are rather annoying and who knows how long it will be available to the general public who may not have a subscription to the journal. This seems to be the trend with most former conventional newspapers which are online these days:
EDGARTOWN, Mass. — Standing alongside the 13th green at the Vineyard Golf Club on Martha’s Vineyard, Jeff Carlson spotted a small broadleaf weed between his feet. As the superintendent charged with maintaining the club grounds, he instinctively bent to pluck it, then stopped.
“We have a weed here or there,” he said unapologetically.
It was the rarest acknowledgment in American golf course landscaping — the Vineyard Golf Club is not meant to be as unnaturally perfect as many of the country’s best-known courses.   
Opened eight years ago, the club is thought to be the only completely organic golf course in the United States, its 18 holes groomed without the use of a single synthetic pesticide, fertilizer, herbicide or other artificial chemical treatment.   
“When we started here, some of my peers thought this golf course would be a dust bowl,” Carlson said, walking across a lush, smooth green toward a rolling, verdant fairway. “I admit I wasn’t so sure it could be done myself. People said we were crazy.”
The club has a more prominent endorsement now. The nation’s first golfer, President Obama, is expected to play here while vacationing this month, after playing the course twice last year.

Image From Vineyard Golf Club

Not exactly what most Agro-Chemical critics would admit
when it comes to organically maintained landscaping
With golf courses increasingly being criticized for environmentally unfriendly practices, the Vineyard Golf Club has become a petri dish for alternative maintenance techniques. Carlson has learned to kill weeds with boiling water and a natural foam cocktail and to remove moss with kitchen dish detergent, and he has transported microscopic worms from Iowa to attack turf-ruining grubs. He has disrupted the mating cycle of damaging oriental beetles with a strategically placed scent and has grown grass that he believes is more resistant to disease because it developed without chemicals.   
The staff at the Vineyard Golf Club are now seen as environmental pioneers, with many in the golf industry examining their methods. The club’s organic model could become the successful experiment that helps push thousands of courses toward using fewer pesticides, less water and more natural grass-growing procedures.
“Everyone won’t be able to go fully organic, but we’re proving you can severely cut back on synthetic chemicals,” Carlson said.   
When the Vineyard Golf Club opened, it was the first club in 30 years built on Martha’s Vineyard, where the wealthy, many of them environmentally conscious but also accustomed to playing on chemically enhanced private courses, have long kept summer homes.   
Opposition to the project on this liberal-leaning island was fierce. It helped the project that the land was also zoned for a 148-lot subdivision. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission eventually allowed the course to be built with conditions prohibiting the use of any product whose active ingredient was synthetically produced.   
Bill Wilcox, a water resource planner for the commission, called the club a good neighbor and said he knew of no major complaints against it. 
 Although the club is private, with 288 proprietary members — the initiation fee is $350,000 with annual dues of $12,000 — the deal with the commission includes a condition that 125 island residents be accepted as members with no initiation fee and annual dues of $725.   
Carlson, 61, had experience building a golf course with conservationists watching, having worked with the noted architect Michael Hurdzan during the 1990s in the creation of the Widow’s Walk Golf Course in Scituate, Mass. That course is known as America’s first environmental demonstration course, although it was maintained with some synthetic materials.
“Nobody had tried what we were trying,” Carlson said.   
Cruising the Martha’s Vineyard club on a golf cart last week, Carlson recalled one of his earliest jobs in the business, in which he mixed mercury-based fungicides by hand, occasionally near the on-course house where he lived with his wife, Kathy.

Image from Vineyard Golf Club

“Kathy has beautiful, thick red hair, and it started to fall out,” he said. “She went to the doctor, who did some tests and was told she had heavy-metal poisoning. Obviously, I stopped using that stuff. All these years later, it has been kind of satisfying to be trying something so very different.”
In the golf community, there is no clear definition of what constitutes an organic course. A 79-page report prepared by a consortium of golf and environmental experts proposed definitions earlier this year but did not settle the issue. The report listed about two dozen courses that call themselves organic, but noted that most used some synthetic chemical pesticide, fertilizer or wetting agent.   
“The Vineyard Golf Club has gone further than anyone organically, especially for that level of golf course and considering what they’ve achieved over the years,” said Paul Parker, the chief author of the report.  When Vineyard Golf Club opened in 2002, Carlson was in hand-to-hand combat with fungal diseases, insects, grubs and the skunks, crows and raccoons that tore up the turf to get to the grubs. There was also the matter of teaching the membership that nothing in the rules of golf mandated that the game always be played on green grass.   
“We had to promote the notion of playability rather than visual perfection,” Carlson said.  Still, the grubs were particularly vexing. A synthetic insecticide application would have made things easy. But Carlson discovered a specific kind of beneficial nematode, a roundworm that would attack the grubs from within the soil. It occasionally meant flying in the nematodes from Iowa packed in dry ice.   
When it came to the skunks, crows and raccoons, the club went old school. It turned to a retired local fisherman — whom some have compared to Carl Spackler, the character played by Bill Murray in the golf movie “Caddyshack” — who was known on the island for his ability to trap and remove those creatures.   
Nothing at the Vineyard Golf Club, now in its ninth season, is left to chance. To prevent fungal disease, crews go out daily at dawn using a long, whip-like device that whisks condensation off the grass throughout the course’s 69 acres. And visitors have their shoes cleaned before they play to keep contrary grass seeds or diseases from infiltrating the fairways and greens. 
I've split this paragraph into two parts here above and below, because I'd like to interject my own personal thoughts on what was stated here. I love the fact that they have a large crew here for the hands on maintenance. Clearly it's a lot of work, but enjoyable work just the same. With the 10s of 1000s of dollars not spent on synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticdes and water savings as a result of having extremely thirsty plants because of the over fertility caused by synthetics, they can now hire and pay for more employees. More jobs and safer environment for the whole community.
The club’s maintenance labor budget is higher than those of most clubs its size, but Carlson said his net costs were the same “because of the money we save on traditional pesticides, which are very expensive.”
The Vineyard Golf Club greens are devoid of weeds or major blemishes, and they roll true and consistent. The fairways have patches of crabgrass and clover that are barely noticeable. What is most obvious in a walk of the holes is a striking and scenic layout pocked with deep, distinctive sod-faced bunkers designed by the British architects Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie.   
“Yes, it is not perfect out there, but even if your ball comes to rest next to a shaved-down broadleaf weed, it’s not going to affect your shot,” said Gene Mulak, the club’s golf pro.
Private golf course members are notoriously hard on superintendents, but Carlson says those at the Vineyard Golf Club are “real environmental pioneers because they put down the money for this experiment.”   
Sally Rorer, a charter member, said members were proud of the club’s organic approach. 
“It makes it easier to put a sandwich down on the ground between shots, too,” she said. 
What practices and techniques might be transferable from Martha’s Vineyard, where golf courses are generally open only eight months a year, to other parts of the country is debatable.
“Most golf courses wouldn’t make it with an approach so organic, especially year after year with changeable weather,” said James Snow, the national director of the United States Golf Association’s Green Section. “But over time, we’re going to be using less synthetics, and that’s a good thing.
These days, walking past the occasional weed, Carlson has moved on to other goals. 
“We’re trying to be like any other golf course,” he said. “I don’t want people to come here and say, ‘That was a real good golf course for an organic golf course.’   
“I hate hearing that.”
(Source - New York Times by Bill Pennington)
Concluding Comments and Reflection
The beauty of this organic landscape maintenance example is that it is yet another illustration of how a holistic approach through biomimicry [which is replication of Nature] can be successfully implemented with fantastic results on a large commercial scale. This is something the Agro-Chemical and Biotech Corporate business interests say cannot be done with any real serious commercial venture without their help, be it Farming, Urban Landscaping, etc. Here are a couple more examples of big commercial operations [one Farm & one University Campus] who have successfully done what the Vineyard Golf Club has done and the Agro-Chemical industry is livid. Why ??? Because these operations have completely eliminated all synthetic inputs and rely on beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi colonizing plant roots which provides enhanced water uptake and both nutritional and immune system needs. Mostly it's a change in practice. The first example are the grounds keepers at Harvard Yard who were  severely criticized back in 2009 by the Garden Professors at Washington State University who are often committed to industrial science business interests for no other reasons than the claim of peer-review, scientific consensus and the illusion of a practice of something as science-based. Although to be fair, they do provide some good insight and helpful advise about organic practices, but they are adamantly against compost tea even to the point of putting down some of the efforts of their own fellow colleagues at the Extension Service who actually put on a great well balanced webinar on Compost Tea. 

Here is an article I wrote in response to the WSU Professors  thrashing they spearheaded against the successful Harvard Yard Groundkeepers and their own eXtension colleagues for providing information through a very informative well done webinar on the use, recipes and research being done on compost teas.
WSU Garden Professors attack Harvard Yard Soil Project
Another wonderful example of a commercial venture is a 5,400+ acre farming operation outside of Bismark North Dakota by farmer Gabe Brown who has stopped using synthetic inputs and having fantastic results and like Harvard Yard and Vineyard Golf Club is saving 10s of 1000s of dollars in the process. He manages his land by nurturing the soils mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria by keeping his fields continually covered with a 20+ biodiverse mix of perennials in pasture [because mycorrhizal fungi needs a continual host], grazing cattle and planting crops all on the same land with a no-till process which leaves the ground micro-organism infrastructure intact instead of killing them with conventional tilling and synthetic chemical inputs. You can watch this video which features Gabe Brown and his Keys To Building a Healthy Soil, filmed on Nov. 18th 2014 at the Idaho Center for Sustainable Agriculture's annual symposium.

Some of the more interesting photos on their website's gallery were these two photos of the sand traps surrounded by what appears to be the low growing native vegetation of their region. This made me think of ways and examples the west coast golf courses could also use many specimens of coastal sage scrub and some high desert plants in the same ways. There was one paragraph which seemed to sum up what other varied geograpphically located golf courses could do to incorporate many of Vineyatd's ideas, but also specifically tailor them to their own region. This is important not only from a maintenance perspective, but also a localized ecological one which enhances the natural ecological habitats within any given locality. Here are those pics below.

Image from Vineyard Golf Club

Image from Vineyard Golf Club

I love those pics. For me they are illustrative of the mountain high terrain in eastern San Diego County in California where such application could be implemented at another golf resort called Warner Spring Ranch Resort . For that matter all of the other golf courses of Southern California, including those of the deserts southwest could follow this example since an organic approach which utilizes and encourages micro-organisms allow less water to be used, something that is a rare and expensive commodity out there. And this is irrelevant whether the water comes from an effluent gray water source. Take a look at some example photos below of the Warner Ranch Resort golf course.

Image from Warner Spring Ranch Resort
The photo above here reveals the non-native trees and shrubs first  by the previous ranch developers decades ago. This was always the practice way back then by not only developers, but also land owners of the high elevation country. People move in from the cities and bring with them their favourite plants purchased at the conventional retail nurseries. They most often are not a good fit and if they do survive at all, they are not long lived and often stunted in growth. But today there are more Native Plant Nurseries for places like San Diego county which offer a huge choice of better suited attractive native ornamental plants for this drier environment located at the edge of the Anza Borrego Desert which almost take care of themselves under the right microbial soil conditions. The trees and shrubs the ranch has now have higher water requirements. The southwestern natives on the other hand generally have much deeper root systems and actually resent the massive amounts of water generally supplied on conventionally maintained golf courses. Take as an example the native oak trees below which are experiencing severe die off of their branches. Without any forethought decades ago when plans were architected and being developed, the course was mapped out to weave in and out of existing majestic oak specimens. But giant oaks resent a constant supply of water all the way up to their trunks. Take a look at the major decline and die off of foliage below.

Image from Warner Springs Ranch Resort
Again, as above, the photo below shows, the native California Live Oaks struggle under the golf course's wet grass conditions where the grass actually grows righ up to the trunks of the trees and the foliage declines as a result. The native majestic looking Fremont Cottonwoods and California Sycamores they have left are doing fine, but that is because they are water loving riparian trees. But I also like that they have left in the back in the photo below large patches of the attrctive native Silver Sagebrush. This allows a mycorrhizal system to remain intact and a buffer to weeds taking over had they removed them as a fire break which would create a bacterial system favouring ruderal plants which are non-mycorrhizal. Even many pines do not take so well  to the continual wetness of the lawn environment needed for the course. Please keep in mind here that I really can only speak from a southwestern ecosystem perspective and other regional ecosystems around the globe will all have their own unique ecological fine tuning, even though the basic fundamentals and principles are the same.

Image from Warner Springs Ranch Resort

Successful organic landscape examples on a commercial scale are desperately needed in a world where the prevailing Scientific Orthodoxy insists we need the Biotechs & Agro-Chemical comapnies if the world is going to survive. And they have the world's power and wealth to back up their claims. Truth be said, it is these very same companies from their earliest origins at the beginning o the 20th Century who have literally dismantled and reverse engineered the Earth by means of abuse and misuse of Science. Clearly, their are other scientific studies and ecologically minded organizations which time and again have proven the industrial science business model to be dead wrong. But one of the greatest allies the Industrial Science world has on it's side when t comes to propaganda storytelling is the global Media. Recently there was an article explaining why and how this major gray area journalism culture operates. The article's title is, "Is Most Science News Bull****?"****?
"If we want to live our lives based on evidence (and who doesn’t?), it makes intuitive sense to live according to what we read in the science section of the newspaper. First things first, don’t do that. Newspapers are actually one of the worst places to get information about scientific matters. Now this isn’t some kind of revelation. Anyone with a good understanding of science knows this is as clear as night and day."
Unfortunately the media is where most average people get their science education and understanding. Today's modern society living in a further and further dismantled world where life seems to have less and less purpose are for the most part apathetic. Like the old time religion of the past, most people are lazy and allow the prevailing ruling Scientific Orthodoxy to do their scientific study, research and thinking for them. That article further explained why journalists are not more honest and thorough in producing a well balanced and well thought out educational reads. 
"This is because a well-considered and balanced article is not only time consuming and challenging to write, but ultimately sells less copies, brings in less traffic, and consequently less advertising dollars than shock-horror headlines. All journalists who want to tell substantive, well-researched stories face this problem."
Humans under the failed leadership of political, Commercial & Religious elements have gradually dismantled this planet's life sustaining natural systems which has been accelerated since World War I thanks to the misuse and abuses of science. Quite literally our Earth (Home) has been trashed and abused for it's natural resources to such a degree that many parts are becoming unlivable. Hence the migration of people to the prosperous industrial countries. And yet very few are taking not. This question begs, Why is the average human content with living in a home in an ever growing homeless world ?

Some Interesting References
New York Times: Exclusive Golf Course Is Organic, So Weeds Get In
New York Times: The Grass Is Greener at Harvard
Brown's Ranch: Regenerating Landscaoes for a Sustainable Future
Reclaimed Water: Municipal Projects, CalTrans Landscaping & Pompous Grass Resorts
In Pursuit of the Perfect Lawn (& Why I've always hated Lawns as a Landscaper) 
Native Plants, Micro-Organisms & Habitat Building Resources for creating commercial Ecological Habitats through Biomimicry
California Chaparral Institute
Las Pilitas Native California Plants Nursery
Tree of Life Native Plants Nursery
Mycorrhizal Applications Inc
Lebanon Turf & Biologicals
Some Great News in the Biological Controls Research & Development Department
The article in Entomology Today dealt with grub issues in the lawns that the Vinetard Groundskeepers had to deal with. Here is the latest from the online journal Entomology Today on potential biological controls:
Journal of Integrated Pest Management (JIPM) Article on Masked Chafer Grubs in Turfgrass Explains Management Techniques

Credit Entomological Society of America

Most people are more familiar with the larval form of masked chafers,
like the one shown here. Often called “white grubs,” these
cream-colored and brown-headed larvae can grow to an inch long and
 are typically discovered in the soil lying in a characteristic C-shape.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Fabricating Unscientific Fables for Corporate Business Interests

This is a continuation of another post I wrote on March 29th 2014 where other well known scientists were justifying tree removal by the timber industry because they reasoned that trees in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California were responsble for why the streams and rivers went dry. According to them, the drought and climate change had nothing to do with humans lacking water. It was those evil trees gulping down the water.
Stupid unscientific things said about Forests and Trees

Illustration Matthew Twombly for NPR

Now comes another story out of South America and the Amazon rain forests of Brazil where fear about the Zika Virus is running rampant across the media, setting up a scenario for the world's pharmaceuticals & Biotechs to cash in big time on the next gold rush rumors. This is reminiscent of the bogus 2009 fearmongering propaganda story about the Franken-Mutant Swine/Bird Flu which was going to create one of the largest pandemics the world had seen in decades since the Spanish Flu. This isn't to downplay the dangers of such a virus. But some of the dumb explanations and solutions coming down to us, not from the usual suspects like  CEOs, CFOs or other execs and board members of giant pharmaceuticals, Biotechs or Agro-Chemical corporations with a vested interest in profiteering off the scare, but rather the dumb statements from some Scientists themselves who propose making mosquitoes go extinct as the solution. In other words, once again nature is viewed as flawed, badly designed and the world won't hurt if the Mosquitoes disappear. But don't worry folks, they say there won't be any bad consequences to pay for later. Other organisms they say will pick up the slack or void.

image: Muhammad Mahdi Karim

The big question is, should we eliminate for good the virus carrying mosquito, Aedes aegypti, from the environment ? Absolutely say some Entomologistts and Biologists. Would there be any dire consequences ? You'd be surprised to hear that many of the world's prominent scientists say - No! Below I'll list a few of the quoted gems these experts came up in a recent NPR article.
"There's been lots of debate in the last 10 years whether we should eradicate mosquitoes, or at least the 100 species or so that serve as disease vectors for humans. If you look at the science, the majority [of scientists] think we could probably eliminate mosquitoes without too much harm on the environment."
David Magnus, Director of Standford Univeristy's Center for Biomedical Ethics
"What we learned is that the biting midge is the only known pollinator of cacao. "If we were to eradicate that particular disease vector, we may not have chocolate by the end of it. Which a lot of people would consider a catastrophe"
Dina Fonseca Professor of Etomology at Rutgers University
In one corner of her mouth a Professor of Entomology says that the little bitting Midge is the only pollinator known for the Cacao tree, but the only consequence she could come up with as far as an environmental impact is that humans wouldn't have chocolate. The only consequence ? How does she know that ? No explanation, but then here is what she said about the elimination of the Mosquito:
"I'm not worried about eradicating an invasive mosquito. It's an urban species that specializes on feeding on people," she says. "The result of removing them is health to humans and more people."
Then we have another gem by an entomologist and biologist:
"It's sad the passenger pigeons were lost, but did ecosystems collapse? No. Did anything bad happen? We just lost a pigeon, that's a shame."
"If we took out Aedes aegypti, that would be something. Nothing good comes from them, just that people get really sick."
Andrew Read, a biologist and entomologist who specializes in the ecology and evolutionary genetics of infectious disease at Pennsylvania State University
This was a strange statement a biologist to make about the now extinct Passenger Pigeon. The Passenger pigeon used to migrate in such enormous flocks which were described as stretching for miles and dense enough to blacken the sky. They were nomadic and were constantly searching for food, shelter, and breeding grounds. They were once believed to be the most abundant bird in North America, numbering around 3 to 5 billion at the height of their population. Does Andrew Read really believe that such massive population of a single living creature had no real ecological impact on the environment they lived in ? Do a google search on the Passenger Pigeon or read what American Naturalist and Artist, John James Audubon had to say in his first hand description of them. Seriously, no impact on the environment ?

Of course the Scientific World's only viable answer for combating the Zika Virus is to genetically engineer mosquitoes with so-called 'kill-switches'. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called mosquito control “the most immediate line of defense” against its spread and they are encouraging further testing of GE mosquitoes for this solution. Here is the WHO statement:
“Given the magnitude of the Zika crisis, WHO encourages affected countries and their partners to boost the use of both old and new approaches to mosquito control as the most immediate line of defense."
… For genetically modified mosquitoes, the WHO Advisory Group has recommended further field trials and risk assessment to evaluate the impact of this new tool on disease transmission.”
WHO Report: 'Mosquito control: can it stop Zika at source?'
This degenerate worldview outlook about Nature having major flaws and being badly designed are not recent admissions by so-called scientific experts. Back in July 2010 an article published on this very subject in Nature quoted two other scientists with the same perverted perspective about making organisms go extinct.
"Yet in many cases, scientists acknowledge that the ecological scar left by a missing mosquito would heal quickly as the niche was filled by other organisms. Life would continue as before — or even better. When it comes to the major disease vectors, "it's difficult to see what the downside would be to removal, except for collateral damage", says Insect Ecologist, Steven Juliano of Illinois State University in Normal. A world without mosquitoes would be "more secure for us", says Medical Entomologist Carlos Brisola Marcondes from the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil. "The elimination of Anopheles would be very significant for mankind." - A World Without Mosquitoes
  Update March 30th 2016 - NPR provides another article which reveals not only how Scientists are on board with making a specific organism go on Earth extinct, but also a 5 step plan on how to go about it

Image -  Matt Twombly for NPR
"Most scientists we interviewed, as it turns out, would be all right with saying goodbye to the species. Aedes aegypti carries other deadly diseases harmful to humans, like yellow fever and dengue. Animals don't depend on this species as a major food source, and the critters don't pollinate plants. And anyway, they're an invasive species, infiltrating our cities, where they thrive."
NPR: A Starry-Eyed 4-Step Guide To Wiping Out A Mosquito
I hope nobody is putting blind faith in these Scientists or their Journalists. Never forget, the present ecological mess that our planet is presently experiencing is the result of the misuse and abuse of science by industrial scientists. Choose you Scientist wisely. I won't waste further time on the irresponsible Corporate Biotechs and their biased Consensus Supporters for correcting our Natural World's imaginary flaws while at the same time making a hefty profit under the propaganda cloak of "We only want to help poor people in other countries." But we should note that there are other more important factors which have directly contributed to the imbalance and increases in diseases which effect us. But it does seem that no one appears to be interested in changing the irresponsible human behavour which is changing our planet's environment. None or at least a very limited few of the world's authorities have any interest or backbone for devising a strategy for  reversing the negative effects created by irresponsible human behaviour by means of restoring what has been lost in the natural world. Their only answer is to obliterate through genetic engineering a mosquito with a kill switch which will cause an otherwise valuable ecosystem component to go extinct. The first thing the public needs to understand is that people in white lab coats are for the most part totally out of touch with the reality of how the natural world operates and functions. How many of you folks ever hear of any modern day college students working towards getting a PhD in Botany, Ornamental Horticulture or any other related ecological fields of study ? That's correct, None! Most of these people are out of touch with how whole plant systems actually work within their respective ecological systems. On that note, let's look at the real cause for outbreak below.

Aidenvironment - Riau 2006

Remains of peat forest in Indragiri Hulu, Riau Province,
Indonesia to make way for oil palm plantation.
A recent article by veteran journalist science writer, Jim Robbins in Yale Envirnment 360 had this to say;
"A growing body of scientific evidence shows that the felling of tropical forests creates optimal conditions for the spread of mosquito-borne scourges, including malaria and dengue. Primates and other animals are also spreading disease from cleared forests to people."
Below here are some relevant quotes which highlight how human ignorance and greed have dismantled old growth forested ecosystems and changed the ecological balance to one that is more conducsive to mosquito populations growing unchecked and quickly adapting their behaviour into a more aggrassive critter which increases it's attack on human beings than previously:
"What research is demonstrating is that because of a complex chain of ecological changes, the risk of disease outbreaks, especially those carried by some mosquitoes, can be greatly magnified after forests are cleared for agriculture and roads."
"A flood of sunlight pouring onto the once-shady forest floor, for example, increases water temperatures, which can aid mosquito breeding, explained Amy Vittor, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Florida. She is an expert in the ecology of deforestation and malaria, which is where this dynamic is best understood."
"Deforestation creates other conditions conducive to mosquito breeding. Leaves that once made streams and ponds high in tannins disappear, which lowers the acidity and makes the water more turbid, both of which favor the breeding of some species of mosquito over others. Flowing water is dammed up, deliberately and inadvertently, and pools. Because it is no longer taken up and transpired by trees, the water table rises closer to the forest floor, which can create more swampy areas."
As agriculture replaces forest, "re-growth of low lying vegetation provides a much more suitable environment" for the mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite, Vittor says. 
Yale 360: How Forest Loss is Leading To a Rise in Human Disease
Please read the entire article from the link above. Also below here are some links from research done on the benefits of why nature needs mosquitoes in ecosystems
Historical Perspective on Humans Altering the  Environment
image: Alex Wild/
An adult Mosquito emerges from its watery nursery
The image above looks like something out of a spooky Sci-Fi flick from the 1970s. Back in November 2014, Science Magazine published an article about an experiment with disease-carrying mosquitoes in Africa which showed a surprising result. They only switched to human blood just mere thousands of years ago.  Back in November 2014, there was a press release from Rockefeller University which explained how they isolated the scent that the disease-carrying mosquitoes preferred:
"The researchers guessed that Or4 must be detecting some aroma in human body odor. To figure out which one, they asked volunteers to wear pantyhose for 24 hours. And then they placed those stinky stockings in a machine designed to separate their scent into the hundreds of individual chemicals that make up body odor. The researchers came up with one match, a chemical called 'sulcatone' that was not found in pantyhose worn by guinea pigs."
Apparently, the research at both Rockefeller and Princeton Universities showed a recent switch by one variety of mosquito, Aedes aegypti aegypti, from its close cousin, Aedes aegypti formosus. The latter variety bit guinea pigs in the lab, but showed no attraction to humans; but this was not the case with the first mosquito - Aedes aegypti. Interestingly it would seem that humans have a lot of 'sulcatone', but guinea pigs do not. It appears that a variant in the Or4 gene caused the mosquitoes to be attracted to sulcatone. But the question is, when did this occur ???
"The switch from preferring animals to humans involves a variety of behavior adjustments: Mosquitoes had to become comfortable living around humans, entering their homes, breeding in clean water found in water jugs instead of the muddy water found in tree holes. “There’s a whole suite of things that mosquitoes have to change about their lifestyle to live around humans,” Vosshall says. “This paper provides the first genetic insight into what happened thousands of years ago when some mosquitoes made this switch.”
These scientists never really said how many thousands of years ago this occurred (we'll probably never know), but it’s conceivable that the beginning of  Mosquito behavioural change started at the time when humans began spreading their agricultural practices on Earth as they spread their various civilizations around the globe. On that note, there was another recent study which came out and revealed that the alteration of all the Earth's plant and animal ecosystems happened around 6000 years ago [actually the calculation was 5998 years ago] when humans spread agriculture around the globe. The University of Vermont research revealed where the pattern of human ignorance and mismanagement of the Earth's natural resources first began:

"When did human domination of the planet start? A new study in the journal Nature reports a dramatic shift in one of the rules of nature about 6,000 years ago—connected to growing human populations and the rise of farming. UVM’s Nick Gotelli used his world-leading expertise on ecological statistics to find the pattern."
“When early humans started farming and became dominant in the terrestrial landscape, we see this dramatic restructuring of plant and animal communities,” said University of Vermont biologist Nicholas Gotelli, an expert on statistics and the senior author on the new study. 
In the hunt for the beginning of the much-debated “Anthropocene” — a supposed new geologic era defined by human influence of the planet — the new research suggests a need to look back farther in time than the arrival of human-caused climate change, atomic weapons, urbanization or the industrial revolution. 
“This tells us that humans have been having a massive effect on the environment for a very long time,” said S. Kathleen Lyons, a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History who led the new research.
Chart published in Nature

The above chart shows what they call a Weighted Loses curve with shaded 95% confidence intervals illustrates reduction in the proportion of aggregated species pairs in the Holocene (log scale). Dotted vertical line at 5,998 years delineates the linear model breakpoint in the trend. I'm not sure how they actually get to the 5,998 years, but that must be why the average 6000 years is used for the benefit of the readers. Apparently, prior to the beginning of human civilization spreading of agarian society's farming practices around the globe as human population spread about 6,000 years ago, the prior 307 million years revealed that Earth's various ecosystems were relatively stable with regards animals, plants, birds, etc. But that all gradually but radically changed as humans spread their agriculture everywhere they went around the globe. Here is another quote:

"For modern communities of plants and animals, recent studies show that segregated species pairs are more common than aggregated ones. But when the team investigated the composition of ancient communities using data from fossils, they were surprised to find the opposite pattern: from 307 million years ago to about 6,000 years ago, there was a higher frequency of aggregated species pairs. Then, from 6,000 years ago to the present, the pattern shifted to a predominance of segregated species pairs. An ancient rule had changed."
(Source - University of Vermont)
(Source - Nature)
Seriously, what else can I say ? Currently, it would not be a surprise to anyone that there are organizations [Biotechs, Agro-Chemical, Pharamceutical, Investors, etc] who are figuratively high fiving each other over the prospects of making some type of obscene profit over the misfortunes of others. There is currently no vaccine available for the Zika virus and only the symptoms of the virus can be treated. They also have no solution for the other avenues for which Zika virus transmission is possible. For example, like the AIDS virus, this Zika virus can also be transmitted through Sexual Contact and Blood Transfusions . Couple of problems here. First, no real leaders in our modern times wants to place recommended limitations on human sexual behaviours. They either don't have the guts or backbone to educate those who look up to them or they realize that their following just recent being told how they should live. I can only guess what their apathetic stance and reasoning is, given some time, Science just may come up with a "Fix-It-Pill" to reverse any of the negative consequences brought to us by Zika virus as a result of irresponsible human behavioural choices. Second, the Blood Industry in the medical world makes a fortune off their blood business model. Recommending the Public use safer alternative transfusions like Ringer's Lactate, Saline Solution, etc are not an option for them. There is no money in it. It's absurd. Hey, even the United States military is spending millions of dollars on non-blood surgery which makes sense from a logistics standpoint. It should honestly be noted that not all scientists and other researchers follow this corporate lead or flawed worldview about our natural world being flawed and at fault.  But people everywhere should start questioning who and what you are putting your unquestioning trust and blind faith into.
Update - March 6, 2016
This is a bit of depressing News Report which came out about the actual company who is behind the GMO Mosquitoes and the fortune they hope to reap off the ecological tradgety 
A Biotech Evangelist Seeks a Zika Dividend 

“An outbreak in the Western Hemisphere could give countries including the United States new reasons to try wiping out mosquitoes with genetic engineering."
MIT Technology Review
"Lots of organisms process detritus. "Mosquitoes aren't the only ones involved or the most important. If you pop one rivet out of an airplane's wing, it's unlikely that the plane will cease to fly."
Insect Ecologist - Steven Juliano - Illinois State University
Yeah, you betcha!
NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth News

And in another bit of flawed double standard reasoning, GMO cheerleader, Mischa Popoff, caused the "Irony Meter" to go off the scales recently on this very subject of controlling Mosquitoes. He criticized Texas Agrilife Specialist Dotty Woodson who talked with Katy Blakey about mosquito abatement for home and yard. The subject of using Bacillus thuringensis (known for it's infamous BT Toxin which kills insects), here is what spewed back in May 2015:
Mischa Popoff: "The problem with using bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to kill mosquitoes is that it kills a lot of non-target insects which are food to aquatic animals."
Ironically, there was an article of April 1st, 2016 in the online journal, "politico Magazine," Mr Popoff  made this statement below after poking fun at Cuba's small organic farmers who number around 383,000 farms, many of them small urban farms.

Mischa Popoff: "Cubans won't feed America's appetite for anything until they can feed themselves. And to that end, it's time for Cuban farmers to start using synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and GMOs."

Patrick Moore & Mischa Popoff
Let's see here, 'double standard', 'two-faced', double-tongued', 'pot to kettle black' & major hypocrisy spilling out all over the place. Disagree with Mr Popoff and you are immediately labeled an anti-science Luddite from the dark ages. I know,  because this is the same guy who censored, edited and deleted many of my posts on the subject of GMO discussion over at his precious journal pages on the Heartland Institute's website. Needless to say I discontinued my DISQUS ACCOUNT.  To the right here Mischa is pictured with his good buddy Patrick Moore who like Mischa, is both pro-gmo and climate change denier. Once again, ironically, I do not argued against GMOs from an autism, cancer, etc position, but rather from an ecosystem replication standpoint based on my own application in which all of Earth's plant communities operate efficiently under the same biological guidelines and rules found in nature and when replicated properly  negates the need for GMOS and Synthetics.  Clearly industrial science and their scientists hate biomimetics. There's no money in it which is ultimately what this has always been about. Maybe I went to the wrong science classes when younger. But if their version of industrial science has the power to control & establish what truth is, then I guess I am a Luddite after all.