Natural Farming with Manasobu Fukuoka

PermaculturePlanet (2012)

Film Review

The late Manasobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) was a Japanese natural farmer and philosopher celebrated for his natural farming and re-vegetation of desertified lands.

I first became interested in Fukuoka’s work when I was researching organic methods of ridding my veggie garden of the obnoxious weed oxalis. According to one website, the only effective organic method of controlling oxalis was to seed your vegetables in a continuous green cover crop of clover or alfalfa. After trying it, I found this approach not only suppressed oxalis and other weeds, but it greatly improved soil quality and vegetable growth, while simultaneously reducing the need for watering.

Fukukoa also used trees, shrubs and naturally growing weeds, in addition to nitrogen-fixing legumes, to support his fruit trees and vegetables. His methodology specifically forbids plowing, cultivation, watering, weeding or use of manure or prepared compost.

It strikes me that this that this approach closely approximates the original horticulture anthropologist Toby Hemenway describes as preceding agriculture by tens of thousands of years. Fukukoa comes to the identical conclusion Hemenway does – that it was in the transition from horticulture to agriculture, which systematically replaced natural landscapes for monoculture crops, that humankind made the first wrong turn.

According to Fukukoa, turning the soil over through plowing or cultivating is the worst because it kills the delicate soil microorganisms that support healthy plant growth. When a farmer employs natural methods, the trees, moles, legumes and earthworms do all the plowing for him. Artificially watering is nearly as damaging because it tends to compact the soil and stunt root development.

After seventy years of perfecting his technique, Fukukoa discovered the best way to sew vegetable in a pre-existing patch of trees, shrubs and weeds is to encase the seeds in clay balls he throws directly into the weeds. By encasing the seeds in clay, he protects them from being devoured by birds and insects.

He was always highly critical of agricultural methods that deliberately fell trees to produce monoculture crops supported by chemical herbicides and pesticides. Trees are essential in natural farming because they protect smaller plants against disease and play a fundamental role in producing rain. Denuding a region of trees is the fastest way to produce a desert.

Fukukoa is also highly critical of lawns, a European innovation he equates with the beginning of so-called civilization. They are also one of the main causes of insect infestation.

Crop yields produced by Fukukoa and his students always vastly exceed those industrial agriculture produces. With the development of agriculture, humankind became so obsessed with reducing labor inputs and improving efficiency, they failed to recognize they were killing their soil and destroying their yields.

The film below profiles one of Fukukoa’s last public appearances, a visit to some of his students’ farms in India.

*Six months after planting my first cover crop, a local permaculture instructor advised me that lowering the soil pH (with lime) is also an extremely effective method of eradicating oxalis.




One thing I really like about this paper is the specific suggestions it offers for capturing CO2 on your farm or in your garden. In building my own “food forest,” I have found continuous use of cover crops (as promoted by the late permaculture guru Manasobu Fukuoka) invaluable in improving soil quality and plant growth. Conventional agriculture (especially as practiced by factory farms), ie monocrops, disturbing the soil by plowing or cultivating or leaving bare soil exposed to the elements kills important soil bacteria that are essential to plant health. I promise to post a documentary exploring Fukuoka’s work tomorrow.

Originally posted on Aware & Fair:

Healthy soil Healthy soil. (Photo: Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Health Campaign/flickr/cc)

A new study highlights how healthy soils absorb greater amounts of CO2. Natural farming and more wildflower meadows may help to significantly reduce greenhouse gases.

The Solution to Climate Change Right Under Our Feet

What if there were a risk-free way of helping to mitigate climate change while simultaneously addressing food and water security?

A new report from the Center for Food Safety says that such an opportunity is possible, and it’s right below our feet.

Soil & Carbon: Soil Solutions to Climate Problems outlines how it is possible to take atmospheric CO2, which is fueling climate change, and plug it into the soil. Far from moving the problem from one place to another, this shift can reduce ocean acidification because the oceans are no longer the sink for vast amounts of CO2, and can regenerate degraded soils…

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Class Dismissed: How TV Frames the Working Class

Loretta Alper and Pepi Leistyna (2005)

Film Review

This documentary is based on a book by the same title by late linguistics professor and media critic Pepi Leistyna. Its primary focus concerns the role of TV programming in the stigma associated with working class identity.

Frank discussion of social class is largely taboo in US society. For the past five decades the corporate elite has aggressively promoted the myth that the US is a “classless” society – in much the same way they champion the myth of America’s “post-racial” society.

Even though 62% of the labor force has a “working class” job (these are 2005 numbers – eight years post-crash this percentage has substantially increased), Americans lucky enough to have full time minimum wage jobs persist in referring to themselves as “middle class.”

The commentators interviewed differ over the definition of working class. Does it refer to occupation, lifestyle, income or merely failure to have control or authority over the work you do? All agree the minimum wage service jobs which have replaced the high wage manufacturing jobs the neoliberals exported overseas are working class positions.

The also agree to the heavy influence of corporate advertisers in using TV programming to market consumption and a sanitized, suburban, middle class way of life.

Stigmatizing Working Class Families

As the cold war deepened and anti-communism and anti-union sentiment flourished, corporate media launched a frontal attack on any lingering sense of working class pride and solidarity. Ever since the early sixties, TV has consistently portrayed working class characters in a negative light. They typically play comic roles, in which the men especially display hopelessly bad taste, dysfunctional family values, low intelligence and poor self-discipline.

Class Dismissed illustrates with great clips of the Honeymooners, the Flintstones, the Simpsons and All in the Family. Typical messages these programs put across were that poverty is a lifestyle choice, that poor people don’t deserve better economic circumstances because they wouldn’t appreciate it and that working class men are incapable of serving as head of the household (their wives are always smarter and more self-disciplined).

Clips from “working class” reality shows, such as Jerry Springer, are even more illuminating. Guests are deliberately portrayed as white trash (behind the scenes producers refer to them as “trailer trash”). All are carefully coached to behave in extreme and flamboyant ways. In other words to reinforce the stereotype that working class people have no discipline or self-control and are essentially fat, sloppy and emotionally labile. The clear message is that middle class people who behave this way are screwed up – it’s totally normal when working class people do it.

TV Treatment of Minorities

The documentary also examines TV’s treatment of minorities and women. When black sitcoms first became popular in the 1980s, the format religiously showcased a sanitized middle class black lifestyle (eg the Cosby Show). Even shows set in the “ghetto” portrayed a comfortable middle class lifestyle. In addition to erasing the realities of black poverty, these programs also put out the message that ghettos aren’t that bad – thus there’s no need for affirmative action or welfare.

“Moving on up” was another common theme of early black sitcoms (eg the Jeffersons, Different Strokes and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air). A secondary theme was the need to rely on white people and rich blacks to help you move out of the ghetto.

The rise of cop shows in the eighties and nineties featured the stereotyped role of blacks as criminals. The goal here was to justify the growing prison system, in which the majority of inmates are African American and Latino, while simultaneously delivering the message that black poverty stems from the bad behavior of African Americans (and has nothing to do with capitalist structural problems, racism or white privilege).

The Link Between Gender Discrimination and Poverty

TV also consistently ignores the link between gender discrimination and working class status. Women of color always hold the worst, lowest paid jobs. This is never depicted as an economic necessity – but as a lifestyle choice or the result of poor choices or failure to take responsibility.

LIkewise, TV never realistically portrays the link between single motherhood and poverty (in 2005, 28% of single mother lived in poverty with an average income of $28,000). All the single mothers on TV are either middle class or temporarily down on their luck due to past mistakes.

Roseanne was a clear exception, owing to demands Rosanne Barr made on her producers to portray a strong feminist working class character. Barr battled constantly with her producers (ie she threatened to quit). Although she ultimately got her way, the Hollywood and tabloid press excoriated her for being difficult and demanding.

Slavery by Another Name

PBS (2012)

Film Review

This shocking documentary reveals how virtual slavery persisted in the South for 80 years after the Civil War and the enactment of the 13th amendment. This involuntary servitude, based on Jim Crow laws and illegal debt slavery, allowed Southern factories, railroads, mines and plantations to use former slaves as a captive workforce. Prior to 1941, the federal government largely turned a blind to these activities, owing to the economic importance of free labor in the industrialization of the South.

When the Civil War ended in 1865, Congress imposed a period of radical Reconstruction on the South. Enforced by federal troops, it ensured that newly freed slaves enjoyed the right to vote and other civil liberties they were guaranteed under the 13th, 14th and 15th amendment.* The 1500 or so black politicians elected to Reconstruction governments established the first free public schools (for white and black students) in the South.

Jim Crow Laws and Convict Labor

Reconstruction ended in 1875. When a pro-Southern majority took over Congress, control of Southern states and communities reverted to the wealthy elite which had run the slave plantations. Thanks to a loophole in the 13th amendment (see below), all the former slave states quickly established a system to lease convict labor to private companies and plantations. The Jim Crow laws they passed made blacks subject to arrest for petty misdemeanors, such as walking along the railroad tracks, speaking in a loud voice in front of white women, spitting, loitering and vagrancy (all blacks were required to carry proof of employment at all times).

Following their arrest, Southern prisons hired these men (one-third were boys under 16) out to plantations and private companies for $9 a month. Small towns would conduct large police sweeps at cotton picking time or when coal companies were recruit miners.

Working conditions were far worse than under slavery. Companies had no incentive to keep black workers healthy and safe – workers who died were easily replaced. Death rates, especially in the coal mines, were extremely high – roughly 30-40% per year.

Debt Slavery

Even more Southern blacks were enslaved through illegal debt peonage schemes, which used real and fictitious debts to force them into involuntary servitude. This was based on a totally corrupt legal system in which unscrupulous law enforcement officers collaborated with bent magistrates and justices of the peace. Deputy sheriffs would take blacks into custody, claiming they owed them money. Without a shred of proof, their magistrate friends would throw them in jail. The same deputies would then “buy” and resell them at a profit to private companies and plantation owners.

In the early 1900s a federal grand jury investigated Alabama for debt peonage, illegal under federal law, and returned a number of indictments. Although most were dropped, two of the worst offenders sentenced to federal prison. Concerned about potential ramifications for American industry (the world’s largest corporation US Steel owned the Birmingham coal mine that employed convict and debt-based labor), President Teddy Roosevelt pardoned both of them.

Sharecropping Also Illegal Under Federal Law

Sharecropping was another form of illegal debt peonage. Forced to borrow their living expenses from plantation owners who charged 50-90% interest, sharecroppers had no hope of ever repaying their debts. Worse still, state law prohibited them from leaving the plantation with unpaid debt. Those who tried were arrested and brought back.

The Early Role of the NAACP

All this began to change in the early 1900s with the steady migration of Southern blacks to the North, as well as the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. The latter actively campaigned for anti-lynching laws, as well as stronger enforcement of federal laws banning debt peonage and convict leasing to private entities.

Progress was incredibly slow. By the early 1930s, there were still 4.8 million blacks in the South. Most were caught up in some form of involuntary servitude.

It would the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December for Franklin Roosevelt to mandate aggressive prosecution in all cases of involuntary servitude. His primary concern was that Japan would seize on America’s horrific treatment of African Americans for propaganda purposes.

*13th amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
14th amendment: (Sec 1): “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
15th amendment (Sec 1) “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”


I’m really disappointed in Ron Wyden, one of the Fast Track co-sponsors. He should know better.

Originally posted on Wolfessblog -- Guillotine mediocrity in all its forms!:

Published on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Democratic Trade War: Obama Says Warren ‘Wrong’ on TPP as Reid Says ‘Hell No’ to Fast Track

Split among Democratic lawmakers front and center as push for corporate-friendly trade pact heads for key votes in Congress

At a labor rally last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said workers “have to fight back” against corporate-friendly deals like TPP. “I’m proud to be with you and I’m going to be with you all the way,” she said. (Image: Screengrab/AFL-CIO)

President Obama on Tuesday evening said that progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who have called out the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement for being a corporate-power grab and have vowed to defeat legislation designed to ram it through Congress are simply “wrong” when it comes to the pending deal between the U.S. and 11 Asian and Pacific nations.

Specifically singling…

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El Maidan (The Square)

(Arabic with English subtitles)

Johane Nohaim (2014)

Film Review

The Square, based largely on amateur and cellphone footage, presents an activist prospective of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that has been totally omitted from western media coverage. It delineates an early split between Muslim Brotherhood and Christian and moderate Muslim activists that occurred long before Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi became president in June 2012.

The clear view of the filmmakers is that the Muslim Brotherhood, who were latecomers to the Tahrir Square protests, co-opted the uprising and used it to negotiate a secret deal with the Egyptian military. Whether US and British intelligence, long time supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, played some role in this process isn’t addressed.* Once the agreement was sealed, Muslim Brotherhood activists withdrew from the square. This left more moderate protestors to be beaten up and killed by police thugs and the Egyptian military.

Filmmakers interview original organizers of the Tahrir Square occupation who deeply regret their decision to abandon the occupation when Mubarak stepped down in February 2011. They some failed to register that he was merely a figurehead – that the Egyptian army continued to rule with totalitarian powers. As one observes wistfully, “It was a big mistake leaving the square before the power was in our hands.”

Before watching this film, I had no idea the occupation of Tahrir Square continued during the lead-up to the so-called “free and fair” elections of 2012 – as did the beatings and murder of youth activists, Christians and moderate Muslims struggling to maintain the occupation.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood only represents a minority of Egyptian society, their Peace and Justice Party won a majority of parliamentary seats in February 2012 because they were the only organized opposition party. Non-Brotherhood activists largely boycotted the June 2012 presidential elections, in which Morsi and a former Mubarak henchman were the only two choices. They continued to protest in Tahrir Square, which the Egyptian police and military staged murderous attacks on peaceful on them with weapons provided by the US and Egypt’s Persian Gulf allies.

Morsi Grants Himself Dictatorial Powers

Efforts to retake Tahrir Square continued after Morsi took power and granted himself dictatorial powers far beyond those Mubarak enjoyed. In February 2012, protestors finally succeeded in reoccupying Tahrir Square. The protests swelled, as they had in 2011, when Morsi ordered police to fire live ammunition against peaceful protestors.

The 2013 Military Coup

On June 30 2013, organizers called for an open-ended general strike with the demand that Morsi step down and new elections be called. In Cairo alone, more than two million participated, the largest global protest in history. When the Muslim Brotherhood organized a sit-in counter demonstration, Gen Abdel Fatah el-Sisi massacred scores of Brotherhood protestors, arrested Morsi and called new elections.

Released in January 2014, the film ends before the May 2014 election, in which the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party was forbidden to participate. Approximately half the Egyptian population participated, with el-Sisi receiving 96 percent of the votes cast. Egypt’s state of emergency continues. According to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, more than 41,000 people have been arrested in a sweeping crackdown against Islamists, secular activists, protesters, students and journalists – while protestors shot and killed by Egyptian authorities number in the hundreds.

*Ahmed Bensaada and others have also written at length regarding the CIA/State Dept role in infiltrating and shaping what Egypt’s so-called “color revolution”: The CIA Role in the Arab Spring


Now all Russia needs to do is to establish their own system of sovereign money and end their dependence on Wall Street banks.

Originally posted on Life in Russia:


Digging into Russian Statistics

If one was to believe the media everyone in Russia is on the verge of panic because of the sanctions on imported foods. The reality is much different, the belief that what Russia imports from other countries would lead to empty shelves in grocery stores has proved to be false? So were does a majority of the food come from that sits on the table of most homes in Russia? The answer is surprising – “the Russian Dacha”.

In 2011, 51% of Russia’s food was grown either by dacha communities (40%), peasant farmers (11%) leaving the rest (49%) of production to the large agricultural enterprises. What is interesting is when one digs deep into the earthy data from the Russian Statistics Service you discover some impressive details. Again in 2011, dacha gardens produced over 80% of the countries fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of…

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