Hope for a Beleaguered Planet....

Our book Milpa: From Seed to Salsa - Ancient Ingredients for a Sustainable Future explores through a blend of essays, recipes and documentary photography how the ancient agricultural knowledge and the wealth of 1000 year-old seeds and planting practices still in use among the Mixtec peoples of southern Mexico can help us to meet the ecological and food crises of today.

The essays, written in conjunction with campesino farmers, serve as a warning about the complicated dangerous effects inherent in the rapidly expanding distribution of GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds in Mexico, the birthplace of corn. Our documentary cookbook discusses alternatives for campesino farmers across the world and gardeners and consumers who care about food safety. Using the example of the Milpa planting system in the Mixteca Alta region of Southern Mexico just north of Oazaxa City, the book supports recent studies by UN investigators that show that small plots of land, heritage seeds and sustainable practices can in fact feed the world while enriching the soils on which we all depend for life…….

Milpa contains the traditional recipes lovingly shared by the local indigenous Mixtec women, allowing readers to re-create the culinary magic that flows from this ancient agricultural system. Recipes are painstakingly tested and photographed in traditional indigenous kitchens as well as in a professional modern test kitchen. Please purchase the book, below.....

All Rights Reserved: © Phil-Dahl Bredine, © Kathy Dahl-Bredine © Judith Cooper Haden Photography, © Susana Trilling SOMH.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What Is To Be Done?

What a complicated and fascinating world we live in today! Here, as our neighbors struggle to rescue crops and seeds from two consecutive years of excessive rains and early frosts, the issue of seeds has become symbolic of the national and international fight to block the efforts of business and governmental elites to control the world’s commons to feed their collective greed. From Wall Street to Yucuyoco normal people who have a more realistic understanding of our place on the planet and among the community of living things are standing up against blind avarice.

Of course one of the most ingenious tools of avarice ever developed is the genetically modified seed whose genes float silently on the wind making corporate property of every plant with which they interbreed. Recently, a number of efforts to protect the rich wealth of native corn seeds from this tool of greed in this center of origin of the world´s most important grain have resulted in proposed and actual state laws declaring transgenic free zones. But indigenous groups who have analyzed the laws conclude that, in the context of Mexican federal laws and the national economic and political climate, such laws will only serve the interest of the corporate and political conglomerates and validate their  right to decide the future of the indigenous seeds that our communities consider a patrimony of humanity. Indigenous communities here, since the Zapatista uprising of 1994, have realized what angry protesters from Greece to Wall Street have also understood, that supposed democratic laws and legal and economic  structures cease to serve the common good when controlled by political and corporate money, by political and corporate greed. A democracy controlled by professional politicians beholden to unlimited corporate money is no longer a democracy.

 Leo Tolstoy once wrote a revealing and entertaining short treatise on poverty entitled “What is to be Done?”.  Today, faced with a greed that is not only undermining the common good but the sustainability of life on the planet, that is our question, too. Here CEDICAM, the Mixtec organization with which we work, is developing strategies to turn to the local democratic structures that still exist in the indigenous communal villages to protect it´s native seed heritage.  Here, where the exaggerated greed of the western political and economic reality is less dominant, we are working to develop legal processes that can exclude GMO´s from indigenous territories. These processes can find legal support in the international treaties to which Mexico is bound and which dictate indigenous rights over resources found in indigenous territories. If no where else, here in democratic indigenous communities Monsanto can be stopped!

Fortunately, there are other places in the world, primarily in Latin America, where today indigenous majorities are making democracy work for the common good.  Newly freed from control by international financial institutions that promote the agenda of avarice that has increased the wealth of the 1% by 275% in the past 30 years, countries like Bolivia, and Ecuador are once again prioritizing the common good and  national visions based on an indigenous understanding of the world.

What is to be done? Surely the creativity that the anger of the world is generating in indigenous communities and in urban streets across the globe will yield strategies. Study how Argentina has created a healthy economy by refusing to pay international loans and escaping from the straitjacket of trade and financial liberalization. Try to understand why Bolivian indigenous scholars think that the principles of the indigenous Vivir Bien, living well, provide answers to the crises of our times. Meditate on the vital importance of the indigenous  understanding that the Mother Earth is a living being, generous but demanding respect.  Question “development”, financialization of the economy, patents, and privatization of what we hold in common and of our common needs, the Market!

There are growing cracks in the edifice of avarice to take advantage of.