AID Cares

AID CARES – campaign on organic agriculture: consumer awareness, responsibility and empowerment

Eating, Wendell Berry said in The Pleasures of Eating, is an agricultural act.  What we eat, the farmers grow.    If it comes from a plant, of course.

Michael Pollan said:  “If it comes from a plant, eat it.  If it was made in a plant, don’t.”  He advised this for the sake of our health and the health of the planet – social, economic, environmental, and spiritual.  It is all connected.

The decline of our food habits will result in the decline of agriculture.  Conversely, sustaining healthy food habits will sustain healthy agriculture.  We can:

Grow food: All of us can grow at least one edible plant in our homes or spaces near our homes.  It doesn’t get any more fresh, local, or organic than that.

Buy local: We can also encourage farmers near us who are first and foremost farming, under circumstances that are often difficult, and especially those who are trying to practice sustainable agriculture through low-external input, crop diversity, natural nourishment of the soil and plants, and non-pesticidal and non-herbicidal management of pests and weeds.   You can find locally grown foods at the farmers’ market or join a community supported agriculture.   In response to growing demand, grocery stores have also started carrying food from within the county, state or region, and displaying the location.  Sources of local food in the US are listed at http://www.localharvest.org.

Avoid packaged food: As people’s food habits move towards eating packaged and highly processed foods, eating will become an industrial act and the more industrial food we eat, the more industries will rise to manufacture, package, advertise and market those edible-food like substances.  These industries create pollution and waste, in addition to landlessness, sponsored research,  misinformed policy, and disease.  Remember, the food industry creates customers for the health industry.

Avoid markets that carry mostly packaged food:  

Compare the markets where fresh food is sold to those selling packaged food.  Which is more likely to allow you to bring your own bags, thus avoiding plastic bags?   In which are you more likely to know the shopkeeper?  Which is more likely to allow you to pay later if you are in a tight spot?

Which is more likely to be air-conditioned?  Which is more likely to have security staff guarding the entrance, checking the bags that come in and go out, and deciding who is allowed in the shop?  Which is more likely to send advertisements?

Local or organic? With  consumer support, a local farmer may move towards sustainable, low-external input and non-toxic agricultural methods.  But a Big Organic farm thousand of miles away has no interest in any local community.  It is enough for them if a small percentage of people distributed throughout the country buys their products,  separating the organic haves and have-nots.   More frightening is that the Big Organic companies can drive out the smaller, local players who are more likely to take a holistic view of organic food, not limited to “absence of pesticides” but rather regional biodiversity, intercropping, and working conditions that allow the workers to have a share in what they produce.

We need local and organic.   With community solidarity, organic can be viable for more local farmers and also affordable for more local consumers.


Perinatal: Discussion Paper

Perinatal: Discussion Paper

3rd July 2009

Proposal for discussion to present at PERINATAL: Symposium on Birth Practices and Reproductive Rights
George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Title:  Changing choices in childbirth in rural India – stories from Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh, India


Women’s options in childbirth are circumscribed by broader factors that determine their opportunities in life, whether and when to marry, to study, or work outside the home.   The limiting factors include ideas about women’s bodies, of  menstruation, fertility and reproductive cycles. Colluding with women’s sense of  inferiority and powerlessness are government policies pushing women towards  institutional childbirth and requiring women to report to the hospital at 9 months  3 days gestation. For women who do not go into labor at 9 months 3 days, this  policy increases the likelihood of hospital birth and related interventions,  including Cesarean birth. A generation is growing up that considers hospital birth  and Cesarean birth to be “normal” and home birth or vaginal birth to be  exceptional. In the process the tradition of midwifery is disappearing. This  pattern reflects a broader global pattern in which traditional living practices  such as natural birth, breastfeeding, sleepsharing, babywearing, and natural  hygiene (also called elimination communication) are being disparaged and  discontinued in societies where they have been in continuous practice up to the  present generation, while being revived among the elite in the first world. These  trends in turn impact attitudes towards learning, health, hygiene and natural resources in a way that creates a gap in the tradition so that the practices can no longer be handed down from elders but must be learned from books, classes or other  media. Meanwhile government policies and profit-driven advertising promote institutional birth, bottle feeding, diapers, cribs and timetables of vaccination, discipline and education that are not oriented to optimal health, growth and learning of the child. Ironically, people believe that following these trends will help them climb the social and economic ladder, but in the larger picture we see that this helps to transfer from the poor to the rich, practices respecting health of mind, body and environment.