Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Organic Farming, Meat, and Mendocino County

Jan and I are thinking of moving to Seattle, at the request of Jan's son, my stepson Evan. On the other hand, he can't guarantee that he will stay in Seattle himself. I say this because it brings into question projects like and California Democracy. I seem to be accumulating a large number of questions, although they still swirl about some pretty bedrock answers.

Last night I attended a forum at the Garcia Grange in Manchester, California, a tiny coastal hamlet a few miles north of Point Arena. The forum was sponsored by some Mendocino County organic farming groups, but the panel consisted of the four candidates for fifth district Supervisor. I am not neutral. I am volunteering on Dan Hamburg's campaign committee. The question before the forum was how could more small scale, organic farming be economically successful in Mendocino County. Also, how could we keep the money generated by economic activity in our county. Money tends to get drained out of our economy by the bigger players, who send it back to corporate headquarters, where ever that may be.

We talked about the need to get a slaugherhouse started in the county, preferably in the 5th district. There used to be one. Now, if a farmer (organic or not) wants to slaughter an animal, they have to transport it long distances, or do the slaughter under the regulatory radar. All four candidates, and the entire audience as far as I could tell, agreed that a local slaughterhouse would be a good thing.

This contrasts with the recent argument I had within the Green Party (specifically, within the California delegation to the Green Party of the United States). California's Green Party platform recommends that people "consider a vegan lifestyle." Vegans, for those of you who have not run into these annoying creatures, reject the idea that life is part of a cycle with death. They refuse to eat any animal products, including products that did not kill the animals like eggs, cheese, and even honey. They also won't use animal products; no leather shoes or clothing, etc. Some members of my delegation wanted to take the phrase from the California platform and insert it in the U.S. national Green Party platform. They also want to ban all scientific study of animals.

I put up a fuss, other members of the delegation joined me, and the "vegan" motion was defeated (if passed by us, it would then be considered by the entire national committee). But then the platform committee people started submitting a whole huge stack of revisions (our platform is way out of date). Less and less discussion happened with each proposal; the general attitude was to pass the new planks on to the full national committee, where they can be amended or rejected. Amidst this deluge the vegan plank appeared again, and the exact same people who had rejected it before, now passed it. They were tired of arguing.

Which reminds me of quaint historical phenomena. The Democratic Party, for instance, started having a racial civil rights plank way back when, during the New Deal if not earlier. But it was a sham. The Democratic Party was very dependendent on the South (former Confederate states), where African Americans were not allowed to vote, and all white people voted Democrat, thus assuring that between 1932 and 1969 all the presidents of the United States were Democrats except Dwight Eisenhower. The racist Democrats did not mind the civil rights plank to much because they controlled Congress; there was no possibility that it would be put into effect. President Lyndon Johnson finally forced enough Democrats in Congress to vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to change things. It is often said that he did not run in 1968 because of internal Democrat opposition to the Vietnam War. But that was only a secondary reason. The main reason was the alienation of the white racist vote in the South. That is why George Wallace did so well in 1968 (he was a Democrat who sometimes ran as an independent).

The Green Party platforms, both California and National, contain many portions I don't agree with, but mainly it is a question of gray areas. People who write platform planks tend to specialize in those issues, and push for what the rest of us may consider extremes. Just for instance, we have an anti-fluoride plank, which is like having an anti-vitamin plank as far as I am concerned. But Greens tend to love vitamin supplements and hate toxins, and see fluoride as a toxin, not a mineral supplement.

How do I tell the local organic farmers, who are in tune with nature, that a bunch of urban vegans want to shut down their milk, poultry, and meat operations? So far I have not. I'll just keep fighting over the party plank when I get a chance. What is really funny is watching the California Greens chow down at a state convention. They eat meat, and the vegans usually stage a guilt-trip protest. Your are right, we should be vegans, pass the ham, please.

So why am I still in the Green Party? I've thought a lot about changing my registration status to Decline-to-State (Californian for independent) lately. In general the Green Party is right about social justice and the environement. But the real thread holding me to the party is its opposition to war (on the other side, pushing me out, is its nonviolence plank, which I would like to amend to support people's right to self-defense). The Democratic Party wants peace, supposedly, but always delivers war. Voting Green sends a message that I want to dismantle the entire U.S. military apparatus. I really do.

I remind myself that the real, basic problem is human overpopulation. It is a global problem, it is certainly a California problem, and it is getting to be a Mendocino County problem.

We don't have enough water in Mendocino County for our current level of population and agricultural production. We take too much out of our streams, which has hurt the salmon. We really need to only grow foods that can survive mostly from the winter rains. We grow a lot of fine grapes here, but the vines are planted too close together. We need to tear out about 1/2 the grapes so that the vines will need very little supplemental watering beyond the winter rains.

And what we don't need is nuclear power. We don't need iPads. We don't need the Congressmen from Mississippi, Texas and New York telling us what to do. We don't even need the fools in Sacramento telling us what to do. Maybe San Francisco needs all that, maybe Lost Angeles needs all that, but we don't.

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