Lester R. Brown on why the US might have to feed China

In an article in the Washington Post, published in March, the eminent environmentalist and food policy expert Lester Brown explains the looming food crisis in China and what the global political-economic implications of this are.

China is at war. It is not invading armies but expanding deserts that threaten its territory. As old deserts grow, as new ones form and as more and more irrigation wells go dry, Beijing is losing a long battle to feed its growing population on its own. Chinese agriculture is also losing irrigation water to cities and factories. Cropland is being sacrificed for residential and industrial construction, including highways and parking lots that accommodate China’s voracious demand for automobiles. And China’s food supply is already dwindling. In November, its food price index was up 12 percent from 2009. In these conditions, how do you feed more than 1 billion people? This question vexes China’s leaders, many of whom are survivors of the Great Famine, in which 30 million people starved to death between 1959 and 1961.

Enter the United States – by far the world’s largest grain exporter. The United States exports about 90 million tons of grain annually, though China requires 80 million tons of grain each year to meet just one-fifth of its needs. Just as China is America’s banker, America could become China’s farmer. Such a scenario – to be dependent on imported grain, much of it from the United States – is China’s worst nightmare and one that could create nightmares for U.S. consumers, as well. If China, which imported about 2 million tons of U.S. corn and wheat combined in 2010, charges into the U.S. grain market, American consumers will find themselves competing with nearly 1.4 billion foreign consumers for the U.S. grain harvest.

Of course, when selling food to China, the United States is dealing with both an economic competitor and a creditor holding $900 billion worth of U.S. Treasury securities. If China pushes U.S. food prices higher, tensions between the two countries may escalate. An even greater stress may develop between Washington and U.S. consumers, as Americans – who think cheap food is a birthright – are likely to press for restrictions on exports to China. Would this work today? The Obama administration – or any future administration – faces a choice. If we limit grain sales to China, might the Chinese limit their monthly purchases at Treasury securities auctions? What would happen to farmers who can’t sell to the world’s largest food market? Our huge deficits of the past 30 years restrict our bargaining power.

The United States has been the world’s breadbasket for more than half a century. Our country has never known food shortages or spiraling food prices. But, like it or not, we will probably have to share our harvest with the Chinese, no matter how much that raises our prices. Our world is about to change.

For the whole article see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/11/AR2011031106993.html

Garbo the Spy – True Story of a Double Agent who helped change the outcome of WWII

I’m not a great fan of war movies, though I’ve sat through countless documentaries and docu-dramas in order to educate myself in history. This film was a revelation, a story completely unknown to me before – about a man who hated violence and couldn’t shoot, who, by his wits alone, changed the outcome of the war and saved thousands of lives.  A statement by General Eisenhower at the beginning of the film testifies to the effectiveness of his role in deciding the outcome of the war.

Juan Pujol was a middle-class Spaniard who was appalled by the violence and bloodshed of the Spanish Civil War,  and vowed to try to do something about the escalating fascist assault on European society that culminated in WWII. He offered his services to the British, but was at first rebuffed because of his lack of prior experience in either warfare or espionage. To establish his credibility as a double agent, he developed a relationship with the German High Command, selling information about military installations and troop movements that he said he gathered from his network of twenty-seven spies in various Western European countries. In a testament to his persuasive skill, his German handlers never caught on to the fact that his network of spies was entirely fictitious and that he had started working for the British spy agency MI-5 (who gave him the code name Garbo). He had to include enough verifiable true information in his coded messages in order to keep the trust of his German handlers.

His greatest coup (and this was a story I, for one, was completely unaware of) undoubtedly was the elaborate ruse he and his British superiors played at the Normandy invasion. He sent messages to the Germans that the invasion was going to happen in Flanders, hundreds of miles to the North, to allow time for the allied forces to land in Normandy in sufficient numbers. Supported by dummy military equipment and faked troop movements in Southeast England, which would show up on aerial photographs, the German High Command believed their agent and concentrated their forces in Belgium. Garbo even persuaded them that the evidence they were getting of troop ships approaching Normandy was a decoy. If they had been able to station themselves on the beachheads at Normandy, thousands more in the landing parties would have been killed.

After the invasion his cover was blown, and as is customary in such operations, the British erased all records of his existence and name and he disappeared, at first to South Africa (where he supposedly “died”)  then to Venezuela, where he lived for thirty more years under another name, got married and had a family. He finally, in the 1980s,  came out of hiding and was given a public recognition and honor. Though no pictures of him existed from his earlier life, the movie reconstructs his story and we do get to see him a generation later.

Soul-Stirring YouTube Message from a Mayan elder on the real message of 2012

Don Alejandro Cirilio Perez Oxlaj is a Quiche Mayan High Priest. Although many history books say the Mayan people have been out of existence for centuries, it is estimated there are currently over a million Mayan living in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Don Alejandro is the elected leader of the National Mayan Council of Elders of Guatemala that consists of 265 Grandfathers and 175 Grandmothers. He is the primary keeper of the teachings, visions and prophecies of the Mayan people. There is much talk about the “ending of the world” supposedly culminating on December 21, 2012. In this youtube video, “The Mayan New Dawn,” Dr. Carl Johan Calleman asks Don Alejandro, “Do you have a message for humanity?”

Even the Rain-Powerful Film about the Continuing Exploitation of Indigenous People and Resources

Even the Rain (También la lluvia) is a 2010 Spanish film about a filmmaker who travels to Bolivia to shoot a film about Christopher Columbus. He and his crew arrive during the tense time of the 2000 Cochabamba water crisis, when hundreds of thousands of poor Bolivians protested the industrial privatization and commodification of the water. The film interweaves the story of the landing and invasion by Columbus in the 16th century, with its egregious violations of human rights and violence visited upon the native population, with the 20th century privatization of natural resources of the indigenous poor. The title refers to a dramatic scene in which some corporate functionaries put a padlock on a rain catchment tank, while the locals protest vehemently. Their protest actions resulted ultimately in the water rights reverting to the people. Intercutting footage of the Columbus film with documentary recordings of the actual protests, one can appreciate the parallels between the exploitation of the past and the continued exploitation of Latin America by rich countries and multinational corporations. I love this film because, like Biutiful (also Spanish), it shows the connection between the personal lives of contemporary people and the political/economic context of globalization and exploitation – what Canadian journalist Naomic Klein has called The Shock Doctrine.

See the movie clip on YouTube

Help stop the deadly finning of sharks for food faddists

(thanks to Manuela and Carsten Essig for this information and link)

Every year, over one hundred million sharks are caught and finned alive. Then they are thrown back in the water where they die miserably. Today most of the shark populations worldwide are threatened by extinction. Especially in China, Hong Kong and Singapore shark-fin soup is regarded as a delicacy and status symbol. Shark protection is a vitally important cause if we wish to maintain a healthy balance in the world’s oceans. Thanks to shark diver Stefanie Brendl, the anti shark finning law, passed in Hawaii 2010, has already inspired similar legislation in other US States, as well as Malaysia, Hong Kong, Guam and several other Pacific Island Nations.

For some amazing footage of Stefanie Brendl swimming uncaged with sharks, and links to the Seventh Generation fund for donations go to:


Could the Japan tsunami have been triggered by secret military experiments?

Conspiracy theories about that possibility have some support in an article published in 1999 in the New Zealand Herald:

Top-secret wartime experiments were conducted off the coast of Auckland to perfect a tidal wave bomb, declassified files reveal. An Auckland University professor seconded to the Army set off a series of underwater explosions triggering mini-tidal waves at Whangaparaoa in 1944 and 1945. Details of the tsunami bomb, known as Project Seal, are contained in 53-year-old documents released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. –New Zealand Herald

Fred Burks comments on WanttoKnow.info

Though it may seem far-fetched to imagine military involvement, these documents and reports raise serious questions about the recent tsunami in Japan and the December 26, 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. The many layers of intense secrecy both in the government and military result in very few people being aware of the gruesome capabilities for death and destruction that have been developed over the years. Were it not for the below article in New Zealand’s leading newspaper, the public would never have known that a tsunami bomb had been created many decades ago. No one denies that highly destructive weapons are being developed in secret by the militaries of the world. What the public doesn’t know is what these weapons are, and what they are being used for. All of this is generally classified for reasons of “national security.”

Few people are aware of the secret societies composed of some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people. Read the major media reports on this key topic at this link. Many serious researchers, including myself, suspect that factions of the power elite want to keep us in fear and even to promote a 2012 armageddon.