My Journalism

https://i1.wp.com/flowstate.homestead.com/files/socrates.jpgI tend to publish about an article a month, aside from blog posts and other writings.

Here you’ll find some links to the more recent articles I’ve written for such outlets as Alternet, Yes!, Upside Down World, and Foreign Policy in Focus, and for the Climate Connections blog.

  • September, 2012, Yes! Magazine, The Dark Side of the Green Economy.
  • September, 2012, Earth Island Journal, Weird Science: The Promise and Peril of Synthetic Biology
  • In June, 2011, Alternet ran this interview with Gustavo Castro of Otros Mundos in Chiapas, Mexico, and Race, Poverty and the Environment ran this piece about California’s climate legislation and its impacts on poor communities on both sides of the border.
  • In May, 2011, Alternet ran my breaking story about California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, and Upside Down World ran this interview on the “Sustainable Rural Cities” of Chiapas, Mexico.
  • In April, 2011, Alternet ran this piece on the outsourcing of climate solutions through cap and trade in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act.
  • In February, 2011, Alternet ran this piece on biofuel-related violence in the lower Aguan region of Honduras.
  • In late 2010, just before the UN Climate Summit in Cancun, Alternet ran three pieces I wrote on Geoengineering and on the emerging Bioeconomy, one of which was written originally for Yes!
  • In Cancun in December 2010, I wrote a lot of press releases, but also produced a few blog entries here and here.
  • An essay I wrote on water justice has been published in the book Water Matters, along with essays by Vandana Shiva, Maude Barlow, Bill McKibben, Sandra Postel, and others.
  • In June, 2010, Alternet ran this article about the community of Mt. Shasta, California, standing up to prevent corporate cloud-seeding.
  • My essay,  What the Zapatistas Can Teach Us About the Climate Crisis, was published in July, 2010 by Foreign Policy in Focus, and republished widely on the Internet.

    Indigenous Environmental Network and Confederacion de Naciones Indigenas del Ecuador holding the line in Cochabamba, Bolivia

  • An article I wrote following the 2009 World Water Forum in Istanbul appeared in April, 2010 as a feature in E: The Environment Magazine. Other articles I wrote from Istanbul garnered a 2010 Project Censored Award.
  • An article I wrote for Transnational Institute following a water justice gathering in Brussels, Belgium was published on Alternetin late March, 2010.
  • Here is a news article I wrote documenting the global tug-of-war over water taking place in France, published on Alternet on February 18, 2010.

I write and have written for these outlets:

Alternet, Counterpunch, Corpwatch, Earth Island Journal, Orion, E: The Environment Magazine, Foreign Policy in Focus, Yes!, Whole Life Times, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Upside Down World, Toward Freedom, Washington Review, In These Times, Left Turn, Left Curve, LiP Magazine, Newtopia Magazine, NarcoNews, On the Commons, Our Water Commons, Clamor, Eartheasy, Race, Poverty & the Environment, and other progressive independent media.

I’ve also provided articles, blogs, and essays for groups like Other Worlds, GreyWater Action, Global Justice Ecology Project, Grassroots International, Hesperian Foundation, and others. I have also produced a number of radio shows for the National Radio Project.

Keep watch here for breaking news stories of all things tense and terrible and true …

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… speaking of which, here, just for continuity’s sake, is the last article I posted on my original Watering Hole blog, in 2006, following some work I did in a Yaqui Indian community in Sonora, Mexico:

Reclaiming the Yaqui River Valley for Agribusiness

Pesticide Action Network and others are continuing to work with the Treaty Council and the people of Potam Pueblo to develop strategies to reduce pesticide exposure. For my part, I am convinced that the water has everything to do with it, and, time and life permitting, I’m hoping to go back eventually to help work on improvements to the water system. (And if anyone reading this has resources to offer to make this happen, get in touch….)

The Yaqui, like all indigenous peoples of the Americas, have a tragic history marked by invasion, displacement, disease, massacre, and ultimately, abandonment to the market and the whims of a corrupt and exploitive government. Famous in Mexico for being the last indigenous group to surrender to Mexican state rule, they have paid the price for their resistance. (And if you ever travel in Sonora, terrible irony notwithstanding, you’ll notice the silhouette of a Yaqui deer dancer everywhere, from the highway signs to the state license plate, from the Sonora bus line to the Museum of Culture in Ciudad Obregon.

The Yaqui had lived since time before time along the Rio Yaqui, which runs through Sonora State to empty in the Sea of Cortez. In 1952, the first dam on the Yaqui River was inaugurated. The Alvaro Obregon Dam, the world’s ninth highest (not biggest) dam, was an enormous feat for Mexico, and, as large dams were everywhere, was a crucial part of the nation’s road to modernity. Consequently it was a death knell for the Yaqui, who depended on the river that bore their name. By 1958, two more dams had been completed on the river, ushering in massive agricultural development and the establishment of this unlikely desert as the breadbasket of Mexico.

According to one of the Yaqui I spoke with in Potam, a presidential decree at the time of the dams’ completion guaranteed half of the run-off from the reservoirs on the Rio Yaqui to the Yaqui themselves for farming and domestic use. But it was not long before the enormous irrigation canals were built, eventually covering 650,000 acres of floodplain and low scrub desert, and the Yaquis found that of the water they were guaranteed they were to receive exactly…none.

This land had been the Yaqui homeland for centuries or longer, and much of it had been titled to the Yaqui communities since the agrarian reform of President Lazaro Cardenas in the 1940’s. But under pressure from the land barons and agribusiness companies that were moving in, many Yaqui began to rent their land out. At the same time, they were hired, at day labor wages, to work the fields, planting, harvesting and spraying.

Due to the backbreaking labor and the massive application of agrochemicals, farm work is recognized as the leading cause of occupational injuries worldwide. Aside from the daily exposure to pesticides in the course of working their expropriated lands, the Yaqui suffer an additional and possibly far greater exposure: a steady diet of poisoned drinking water.

I cannot report on water conditions in the other seven Yaqui villages, but in Potam pueblo there is no consistent source of potable drinking water. The most common source of water for drinking is the riochuelos and arroyos that are fed by runoff from the irrigation canals. In short, the place where all of the agrochemicals end up.

One of the members of our group visiting Potam Pueblo was anthropologist Elizabeth Guillette. Back in 1993, Guillette had done research in the Yaqui Valley which clearly shows that children exposed to agricultural pesticides, “exhibit more neuromuscular and mental defects. They were less proficient at catching a ball, reflecting poor eye-hand co-ordination. Stamina levels were also lower. Also the exposed children had symptoms of illness three to four times the rate of the unexposed, with a high rate of upper respiratory infections, suggesting suppressed immune systems.”

Doctor Guillette published her findings in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives:
www.ehponline.org, and since then her methods have been adopted to study human pesticide exposures in Kerala, India and elsewhere.

Thanks to Doctor Guillette’s study and the work of the International Indian Treaty Council, many people in Potam were aware of the ongoing poisoning. But, while this knowledge is an important first step, the capability to change their situation will take work, and time, and hope. Of all of these, hope is the most difficult to conjure up – and this was the goal of our visit.

There are of course many challenges to bringing about an active response on the part of the Yaquis. Intractable poverty, malnutrition, and the inertia of generations make change – any change – difficult to conceive of. Wealthy landowners, corrupt government officials, a racist police force and the indifference of the rest of the nation don’t help either. But, as a first step to addressing these issues, our goal, as laid out by Andrea Carmen, the director of the International Indian Treaty Council, and Angel Valencia, her husband (both Yaqui), was to address the particular challenge of the Yaqui traditional authorities.

Authority changes hands once a year in these pueblos, and nothing can be undertaken without the consent of the council of village governors. Unfortunately, few of the governors seemed to be motivated to make change, or even to understand the depth of the problem. So, after many talks and demonstrations by the rest of our team, it fell to me to run a workshop and discussion with the authorities to help raise the collective consciousness to recognize that something had to be done.

Without going into great detail, I led a workshop using Hesperian’s booklet Pesticides are Poison, and simultaneous workshops were led by Sarah Mendoza, of the Los Angeles Indigenous People’s Alliance and Rene Cordoba of the Red Fronteriza Para Salud y Medioambiente (Border Network on Health and the Environment). At the end of a day of workshops, discussions and debate, the Yaqui authorities — under pressure form the rest of the community – reluctantly agreed to begin to make some changes. Where this goes, we shall see.

But, during the course of the workshop, as we focused on safety equipment for farm workers, banning overhead spraying, and other occupational health approaches, it dawned on me that, if nothing is done to improve the water situation, everything that is done will be in vain.

Where does the water come from?

After the workshops, I asked to look at the village water system, and was given quite a shock. Luckily, the person I asked to discuss water with me was the midwife of Potam pueblo, Maria de Los Angeles. As the midwife, she knew of all the community’s health problems and cited that, over the last 8 years she had attended the births of 3 children born without brains, 8 children born with jelly baby syndrome and 2 stillbirths. She also reported 3 deaths of leukemia in children under 10 years old.

When I asked her what she thought was the cause, she said she had been told it was “genetic,” but she refused to believe it. The fact that many animals were also born with these conditions was evidence enough that soemthing in the environment was causing these defects. I asked her if it could have something to do with the water, and she said “Andele!” So we took a walk to look at the water conditions.

It turned out that the village has a deep well, an electric pump, and pipes running to almost every house – but that, in the fashion of the Mexican Water Commission (CONAGUA), the pump is broken and there is not enough lift to fill the pipes and distribute the water. A short walk from the pump-house, Maria pointed out something astonishing: the Water Commission had built an enormous water tower not 500 meters from the well – but had failed to connect it. After years of complaints, the water commission returned to Potam. But rather than connecting the tank to the well to allow for gravity-fed water distribution, they built a second tank! Now, Potam pueblo, once situated on the wide banks of the Rio Yaqui, has the luxury of two water tanks, and no water.

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