Resourceful PDX connects residents to events like the neighborhood cleanup pictured above. Credit: SE Uplift
In the past few chapters on Energy Economics, Peak Cheap Oil, and the false promise of Shale Oil, we've gone into great detail to show how our economic growth is deeply dependent on our energy systems.
Understanding the known facts behind this story, as well as each of the stated risks is what The Crash Course is about: assessing those risks and deciding what, if anything, a prudent adult should do about adapting to these realities and facing these risks.
The small city of Immokalee, Florida, provides produce to millions of people. It’s one of the country’s agricultural hubs, but with an average per capita income of $9,518, the majority of residents—many of whom are farmworkers—live well below the national poverty level.
“The wealth doesn’t stay here with us.”
That’s Lucas Benitez, founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and a former farmworker, in the new film Food Chains. The documentary, by director Sanjay Rawal and executive producers Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser, follows the Coalition’s fight for human rights and fair wages for tomato pickers. “There is more interest in food these days than ever,” the filmmakers write on the film’s website. “Yet there is very little interest in the hands that pick it.”
Rawal, who spent 15 years working in the nonprofit industry and several years abroad, was aware of the routine human rights abuses against agricultural workers overseas. “I had no idea that these same abuses could be happening here,” he told me. “I knew I couldn’t just focus on the problem, I had to focus on the solution.”
For Rawal, the most promising path out of this kind of exploitation comes from the Coalition’s strategy of organizing workers at the bottom to revolutionize entire supply chains.
In the 1990s, Benitez and a small group of other tomato pickers founded the Coalition to create a safer working environment in Florida’s fields and raise farmworkers' pay. In addition to winning wage increases, the group has been instrumental in fighting sexual exploitation, violence, human trafficking, and debt bondage on farms.
Many tomato pickers live in trailers with up to 16 other people during the growing season, since rent is otherwise unaffordable. Until recently, when Coalition organizers succeeded in increasing their pay, workers received 50 cents for each 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they picked—a pay-per-piece practice that’s a holdover from slavery, according to the film. Pickers’ wages usually amount to less than $50 a day, and they work long hours under the constant threat of sexual assault and abuse. Because many are undocumented, crimes against them often go unreported.
In 2011, the Coalition launched the Fair Food Program, an project aimed at getting corporations to pay farmers an additional cent for every pound of tomatoes purchased. The program also demands that allegations of abuse and sexual assault on the farms are taken seriously.
Many large companies have already signed on—some of them after tenacious, drawn-out campaigning by Coalition members. Whole Foods, Subway, Walmart, and Chipotle are among several corporations that now comply with Fair Food Program standards.
Now, upwards of 80,000 Florida farmworkers—about 90 percent of the state’s total—are receiving the benefits of these protections. But Food Chains largely focuses on Publix, a major regional grocery chain in Florida, which has refused to meet with Coalition members or join the Fair Food Program, despite public pressure.
Part of what makes the Fair Food Program so successful is that the additional cost for tomatoes is offset to consumers: Since it’s distributed among millions of buyers, each family pays just pennies more per year. Plus, the program holds producers accountable: If they’re found guilty of inappropriately handling a case of sexual assault or abuse, for example, partner companies can’t buy their produce. In other words, if workers report an issue and a supplier in Florida doesn’t address it, that supplier won’t be able to sell to Subway or Whole Foods. Janice R. Fine, a labor relations professor at Rutgers, called it “the best workplace-monitoring program I’ve seen in the U.S.” earlier this year in The New York Times.
Julia de la Cruz, a Coalition member, says farmers are already seeing the benefits of the program. Workers now have a right to take breaks, to leave the farm when they feel threatened, and to report cases of sexual assault or abuse without fear of retaliation.
According to de la Cruz, farms are enforcing a zero tolerance policy against sexual assault. There have been cases where women have reported abuse, and those supervisors were investigated and fired. And that additional penny per pound of tomatoes? It’s a “significant economic relief for our workers, and our community,” she told me.
Rawal sees this fight in the American tomato industry as part of a bigger global issue. “More than 95 percent of the products that we purchase come through a supply chain system,” he said. And other, non-agricultural workers who produce for major retailers—like the Gap and Walmart—face very similar issues at the bottom of their respective supply chains.
Rawal and and his colleagues believe the Coalition’s model of grassroots organizing can be a solution for workers all over the world.
“This is not a film about oppression,” executive producer Eva Longoria told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes this week. “It’s actually about transformation.”
Watch the interview below. Food Chains opens on November 21. Click here to find out about screenings near you.
Nur Lalji wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media project that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Nur is a contributor to YES! based in the Seattle area. Follow her on Twitter at @nuralizal.
The basics of making cordage using nettle stems.
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On Tuesday, the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) hosted its annual Fall Celebration and Showcase. Now in its fifth year, SELC is a driving force for the new economy, doing pioneering work around worker cooperatives, home-based food businesses, alternative currencies, legal guides for sharing, legal apprenticeships, accessible legal cafes, renewable energy, the commons, seed libraries and more.
In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and John Rubino discuss:
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Share Thanksgiving is a free, turkey-based matching service connecting new immigrant families with host families in Canada, where Thanksgiving is in October but is still celebrated with family gatherings and a large feast of turkey, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings. Now in its third year, Share Thanksgiving recently had 700 people participate in 10 cities across Canada.
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In 2010, Pixelache and curator Susanne Jaschko invited UK artist Christian Nold to develop a project for Helsinki. Autopsy of an Island Currency describes and reflects on the two-and-half year process of this artistic research project, which attempted to create an experimental local currency for the…
At the essential center of the framework of the Crash Course is the almost insultingly simple idea that endless growth on a finite planet is an impossibility.
It is so simple it could be worked out by a clever 4 year-old and yet it must not be so simple because the main narrative of every economy in every corner of the globe rests on the idea of endless, infinite growth.
Executive summary: Day after day, humans are challenged to solve problems big and small, yet our brains didn't evolve for optimum problem solving! Fortunately, many simple techniques have been developed to overcome our brains' problem-solving drawbacks, and these techniques can greatly improve our chances of problem-solving success. Unfortunately, while most people solve problems to the best of their natural ability, they have little to no understanding of their brain's shortcomings in this regard, or of ways to overcome them. To better enable us to work smarter, not harder, this article seeks to demonstrate the validity of these assumptions, and to point readers to further problem-solving resources.
Imagine this: Someone offers to pay you $100 for every song you can name! Whoopee! Easy money, right? There's just one catch: you can only use your unaided mind to come up with songs. That's right, no outside assistance – so just step away from the computer, and put down that smartphone! (Just for fun, do spend a few minutes trying to name every song you know.)
If you have ever wanted to incorporate some cast iron cookware into your food prep routine but was hesitant based on what you had heard about maintaining / seasoning or other drawbacks to cooking with it - don't hesitate any longer. The following article really dispels the myths of cast iron cookware and will give you the confidence in your newly acquired pans. (I personally cook with cast iron every single day and for most meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner!)
With the rise of the sharing economy, people are sharing cars, houses, sports equipment, clothing, toys, meals, surfboards and much more. There's an intuition among sharers that sharing is not only good for the pocketbook, it’s good for the planet. The thinking goes that sharing helps us reduce consumption and keep usable goods out of landfills.
Around the world, sharing cities are being created. Sparked, in part, by Shareable’s Sharing Cities Network, the sharing cities movement, with its emphasis on growing community, peer-to-peer transactions, and collaborative consumption, is gaining momentum.
One such city is Amsterdam. A well-established progressive, tech-enabled, and open-minded place, Amsterdam is also a hub for the sharing economy.
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"He who receives ideas from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine receives light without darkening me." - Thomas Jefferson
We can't get around it, so we'll say it upfront. Food is essential to life. What's more, ensuring open access to the resources, knowledge, and land we need to feed ourselves is political. In opposition to corporate control and intellectual property, we need systems and processes which emphasize sharing and collaboration for food systems work.
Learn the basics of prepping and using a water storage barrel. Great tips and info in the following article.
Trends in carsharing suggest the expansion of one-way services like those offered by car2go. (ecomento.com)
Photo credit: the Bike Farm in Portland, Oregon. Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter
A bike kitchen is a place for people to repair their bikes, learn safe cycling, make bicycling more accessible, build community, and support sustainable transportation by getting more people on bikes. Most bike kitchens have tools, parts, mechanics, and a community of knowledgeable cyclists.