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Saturday, March 31, 2012 @ 07:03 AM
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A PLUME BOOK                2004




During the next year, following these Ten Rules for health literally saved my life. While they contain specific practices given to me for my personal condition, I believe the principles within them can serve as a catalyst for anyone who wishes to emerge from the fog of energy depletion or joyless hyperactivity. To be wise, consult your own physician and health practitioners about the Ten Rules, to make certain they are right for you. They are meant to serve as a reference and a tool for you as you read A Pace of Grace, supporting you to become a loving steward of your own energy and providing a step-by-step approach to a more graceful way of life.

The Ten Rules, a list of which follows, consist of simple but radical lifestyle changes. In following these rules, my energy has returned tenfold. I am now living sustainably for the first time in my life and have been strengthened in subtle ways that have taken my life and relationships to a deeper level of joy and mindfulness.

One year after following the Ten Rules as faithfully as I could, my health was dramatically improved. I had a follow-up appointment with the post-polio specialist. He looked at me and said, “You’ve certainly come a long way. How did you do it?” I showed him my Ten Rules for Health. “This is the best energy-restoration program I’ve ever seen. Where did you get it?” I smiled and told him about my prayer experience. He asked me if he could share the Ten Rules with his other patients.

Others asked me to share the energy-conservation practices in the Ten Rules, and they were published on the Internet on a post-polio network and on The Virtues Project Web site. I decided to develop a new workshop called “A Pace of Grace” in a few cities in Canada and the United States. People with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and burnout, as well as individuals with what I call the “E-Type” personality – “Everything to Everybody” – flocked to the workshops to learn how to live a sustainable life. One day it struck me that a book would make these simple tools accessible to even more people.

  • Too many of us have suffered a severe loss in our quality of life amidst the stress of terrorism, war, and economic stability that keep us on edge, wondering when something else will happen to shatter our world.
  • Too many of us have fallen into a lifestyle that feels crazed and out of control. We find ourselves overwhelmed by pressures to go faster and do more.
  • Overdoing has become a way of life, and we have created the most time-stressed era in history.

Yet there is hope. More and more people are heeding a wake-up call in the midst of troubled times. We are reevaluating how we spend the currency of our lives in light of the values we care about. We no longer take for granted the simple pleasures of life – a laugh with a friend, fishing at sunset, snuggling into a deep, welcoming couch with a good book and blanket on a rainy Saturday, performing an act of kindness for a stranger. Yet we don’t make much room for these small blessings. The workaholic lifestyle we have created too easily sweeps us back into a pace of life that fails to sustain our grace.

Now is the time to ask ourselves how we can take back a sense of control over our lives in order to live in a spiritually and emotionally sustainable way. We need to discern how we can preserve our ideals and create islands of peace in our lives and relationships. How can we be the calm in the wind?

  • In the years that I have been practicing the Ten Rules for Health, I have moved into a deep current of inner joy. I feel as if the aging process has reversed.
  • It is possible – and I believe essential – to live more gracefully in the midst of a world that is out of control.

A Pace of Grace gives you a simple four-part program that supports you to purify your life, pace yourself, practice spirituality, and plan a sustainable life. Through these simple practices, you will be able to redesign your life to integrate a deeper level of grace. Each chapter ends with an Exercise of Grace for sustainable, more balanced living. You will discover a wide variety of ways to cultivate a pace of grace, from creating a daily routine of reverence to being active peace builders in all your relationships, and enhancing your inner sense of order by reshaping the order and beauty around you. It offers steps for sustaining soul satisfying relationships and creating genuine community, as well as examining ways to play and experience joy.

  • We structure the practice of the virtues around five spiritual life-skill strategies that have come to light in the years my family and I have stewarded the Virtues Project.

Living by our virtues is the key to leading our lives, rather than following old habits of mindless living that leave no space for a spiritually centered, well-balanced life. The virtues allow us to live each day lovingly, purposefully, reverently, joyfully, truthfully, moderately, and gracefully. I truly believe that the cultivation of our virtues can guide as to the highest expression of our selves, individually and collectively.

  • The health crisis in my life has been a great gift, as all tests are if we are ready to receive the lessons they contain.
  • Moderation – until recently an unfamiliar virtue – is my new best friend. I accomplish more in less time. I savor every moment of every day.
  • My hope is that A Pace of Grace will be a helpful companion in discovering your own path to a more sustainable rhythm of life, day by day and moment by moment.

I have one caveat. You can’t enact the virtues and practices of sustainability described in this book through teeth-gritting determination. Rather, they invite a gentle shift in your spirit. I know that many of you are much like I was. “I’m going to work so hard at not working hard, so that I’ll be the most grace-filled person on the planet.” I know people who go to the gym religiously to reduce stress. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but you can’t always sweat and strain you way to serenity. Luxuriate in these practices, try them on, bask in them with the knowledge that they can refill you and enrich you. I invite you to do the exercises at the end of each chapter as you read along. Take your time. Keep a pace of grace. Fill your own cup and you will have an overflowing sufficiency to give to everyone you love and anything you do. If you choose to cultivate the virtues of a sustainable life, I promise you they will enrich the quality of your life forever.

Linda Kavelin Popov, October 2003


Ten Rules for Health

The Five Strategies of the Virtues Project

Virtues: The Gifts Within



Chapter One: How Are You? The Virtue of Truthfulness

Chapter Two: Purify Your Body. The Virtue of Purity

Chapter Three: Breathe Easy, Breathe Deep. The Virtue of Discernment

Chapter Four: Purify the Language of Your Life. The Virtue of Peacefulness

Chapter Five: Forgive. The Virtue of Forgiveness

Chapter Six: Heal Your Finances. The Virtue of Thankfulness

Chapter Seven: Create a Space of Grace. The Virtue of Order



Chapter Eight: Create a Pace of Grace. The Virtue of Moderation

Chapter Nine: Support Yourself. The Virtue of Acceptance

Chapter Ten: Set Clear Boundaries. The Virtue of Assertiveness

Chapter Eleven: Play! The Virtue of Creativity



Chapter Twelve: Pray. The Virtue of Prayerfulness

Chapter Thirteen: Give the Gift of Presence. The Virtue of Compassion

Chapter Fourteen: Create Community. The Virtue of Unity



Chapter Fifteen: Put Your First Passion First. The Virtue of Joyfulness

Chapter Sixteen: Plan for Grace. The Virtue of Purposefulness






Sunday, March 25, 2012 @ 08:03 AM
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A PLUME BOOK                2004


Back cover

From the author of the bestselling Family Virtues Guide comes a program

for restoring grace, sanity and vitality to our lives

In today’s anxiety-ridden, stress-infused world, even a moment of quiet reflection has become a time-consuming luxury most of us just can’t afford. How did we reach this point? How did we lose our direction and sense of control? And, most importantly, how can we reclaim our lives?

Linda Kavelin Popov asked herself these same questions after the pressures of her own workaholic lifestyle nearly destroyed her. Now, as cofounder of The Virtues Project International, she helps others achieve a pace of grace – a pace for our lives that can balance and sustain us physically and spiritually.

Through a four-part program, A Pace of Grace offers lessons to rediscover the essential elements of a life well lived. Complete with Linda’s ten rules for health, this comprehensive guide is the first step in rediscovering the joy and vibrancy inherent within each of us.

Front cover

A Pace of Grace contains vivid examples of how to make our daily lives meaningful. I offer my prayers that those readers who sincerely put them into practice will achieve that inner peace that is the key to lasting happiness.”

The Dalai Lama

About the author

Linda Kavelin Popov is the author of The Family Virtues Guide, and is one of the founders and directors of The Virtues Project International. She travels around the world in support of the project’s initiatives, speaking to communities, businesses, and governmental organizations. The United Nations Secretariat has honored the Virtues Project as a model for global reform for people of all cultures. She lives in the Gulf Islands near Victoria, British Columbia.

The Five Strategies of the Virtues Project

These strategies help us live more reverent, purposeful lives, raise morally conscious children, create a culture of character in our schools, and enhance integrity in the workplace. They are being used worldwide to build safe and caring communities.

v  Strategy 1: Speak the Language of Virtues

v  Strategy 2: Recognize Teachable Moments

v  Strategy 3: Set Clear Boundaries

v  Strategy 4: Honor the Spirit

v  Strategy 5: Offer Spiritual Companioning

“Great spiritual nuggets for a healthy spiritual pathway.”

Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D., author of Love Is Letting Go of fear===



Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which man ceases to live unreflectively and begins to devote himself to his life with reverence in order to raise it to its true value.

Albert Schweitzer

Until life caught up with me, I was a dedicated member of the Stress Generation. I didn’t mean to be. It just happened. A few weeks before September 11, 2001, I struck up a conversation with an East Indian cabdriver in Vancouver as he drove me from the airport to a downtown hotel where I would be speaking at a conference the next day. We chatted about how he felt, living so far from most of his family. He told me he longed to have them here but that his relatives had no wish to come to North America. When I asked about it, he said, “When I go home to India, it is pure peace, no worries. People still have bills, they still pay the bills, but they are not busy – overdone – as people are here.” Overdone. I blushed in recognition. What an apt description of the typical stress-filled North American lifestyle, I thought, and the perfect word to describe what had led to my own collapse several years before in 1997.

After a lifetime in the healing professions, I lapsed. I had no idea how far I had been swept into the swift current of stress until a life-threatening health crisis literally knocked me off my feet. Like so many others in this era of excess, the demands of my life had outgrown my capacity to sustain it. I had drifted from a gentle path of reflection, reverence, and service to a fast-paced life of constant international travel and an attempt to manage a growing global project, which had become an all-consuming passion. I felt like the goddess Kali, all of her arms busy juggling, but without her steady knowing gaze of serenity and grace.

It all began with a simple desire to be of service, yet there I was careening toward a vortex of exhaustion. I know full well I’m not alone. Too many of us are constantly overdoing because we have overextended our lives, our financial resources, and our personal energy supply. Most days, we don’t even stop to breathe. And now, watching the nightly news has become a health hazard. The turmoil in the world seems worse than ever, the economy is uncertain and unpredictable. The deepening world conflict set in motion after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 has cast an unsettling shadow of anxiety and insecurity over an already overwhelming way of life. We are engulfed in an epidemic of stress in a culture of chaos.

I have always been privileged to pursue the work of my dreams – fulfilling a passionate prayer I uttered while circumambulating our backyard garden at age five: “God, please let me help people when I grow up.” I worked for decades in community mental health, consulted government leaders in the halls of Washington, companioned the dying at a hospice, conducted healing retreats with indigenous and inner-city communities, yet even the best of intentions didn’t protect me from burnout.

You see things and you say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”

George Bernard Shaw

In 1990, my husband, Dan Popov, my brother John Kavelin, and I founded The Virtues Project. It began one April morning in 1998, over brunch at the stately, ivy-covered Empress Hotel overlooking the inner harbor in Victoria, British Columbia. John was enjoying the final day of his week of respite from his frantic career as a show producer for Walt Disney Imagineering in Los Angeles. He began to talk about wanting to be of more direct service to the world. The three of us experienced a crystalline, life-changing moment as we feasted on scones and salmon. We were discussing the state of the world – the rising tide of violence, the school shootings, the growing hole in the moral ozone – and one of us (I don’t recall who) said, “Someone should do something about it.” Suddenly we looked up from our plates, gazed deep into each other’s eyes, and in that moment the dream of serving together was born.

John moved up to Victoria, and we began working together. It occurred to us that violence was a symptom, and meaninglessness was the disease, therefore the cure would have something to do with the meaning of life. So we set off to find it. For years, Dan had studied the world’s sacred texts. He pointed us toward the six thousand years of spiritual guidance contained in the Jewish, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Moslem texts. He researched those and more. We were startled by the luminous simplicity of the answer that emerged.

Running through the great spiritual teachings of all cultures, like a silver thread of unity, are the virtues, described as the qualities of the Creator and the attributes of the human soul. Love, justice, courage, joy, and peace are the essence of who we are.

The virtues are God’s grace to us, a gift in our lives. What we do with them is our gift to God. They are both our spiritual legacy and our destiny. Many sacred traditions also describe the virtues as a very high order of angels, pure expressions of the Divine nature, higher than the archangels.

We found that virtues are at the heart of the value system of every culture on earth and are expressed in the oral traditions of the First Nations. They are a universal vocabulary of character, a context that enables people to integrate spirituality into everyday life, whatever their belief system. Several years after we initiated The Virtues Project, a First Nations shaman in northern Canada told me, “Linda, The Virtues Project is the bridge between the cultures.” On our second trip to the Solomon Islands, Dan and I were invited to meet with the prime minister. We were surprised to recognize him as a participant in a virtues workshop two years before. He told us that he had attained his position after receiving the Virtues Card of service in that workshop. “It set the course for my life,” he told us.

In 1990, in a converted garage beside the home we shared on a five-acre property, we self-published The Virtues Guide, a kind of handbook to help parents to morally and spiritually mentor their children. The book offered simple ways to awaken the virtues within ourselves and our children, describing fifty-two of the three-hundred-plus virtues we discovered in the world’s sacred texts. To say we published a book sounds a bit too lofty, given the fact that we were photocopying it onto three-hole paper and Saran wrapping it for shipment. Within two months of completing the guide, we received orders from more than twenty countries, where news of the book had spread by word of mouth alone. In 1997, to our amazement, the book caught the attention of all the major publishing houses in New York and was put up for auction. Penguin republished it as The Family Virtues Guide (this time with binding!), and Oprah Winfrey invited me to present it on an episode of her show in 1998, “Doing the Right Thing.” It has become a international best seller.

The Virtues Project has evolved into a grassroots movement in more than sixty-five countries. In 1994, the International Year of the Family, the United Nations Secretariat recognized it as a model global program for families of all cultures. Suffice it to say the project took over our lives; seven years after we started it, my life was completely out of control. I found myself sinking under the weight of an unsustainable lifestyle, and finally I crashed.

  • I experienced a profound shock when the fatigue of post-polio took over my life. The world had been my pasture. Now I could no longer drive, had difficulty walking some days, and often could only concentrate and hold my head up for a couple of hours a day.
  • Darkness greeted me on that winter morning when I opened my eyes. When I attempted to get out of bed, my legs went out from under me, and I plunged into a dark inner place of hopelessness and fear.

I struggled out to my prayer corner in the living room by holding on to furniture and leaning on walls. I literally fell to my knees, sobbing, and cried out, “Help me, God! I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to live like this.” I anticipated silence, expected no response. Suddenly, the familiar voice of Spirit spoke: “I will give you ten rules for health. Write them down and follow them.” The commanding power and clarity of this inner voice startled me, but I immediately pulled myself up to my prayer chair, grabbed my journal, and began to write. It felt like taking very rapid dictation.

When it was over, I read through the Ten Rules. They were simple, practical, and surprising – demanding a radical change in my lifelong habits of overdoing at the cost of self-neglect. The first rule was Purity and Cleanliness. It contained detailed instructions about purifying my diet – what foods to eat, the required amounts of water to drink, and the necessity of immersing my body in water each day. The meditation ended with the tenth rule: Plan a sustainable life. That morning, this phrase utterly mystified me. I had absolutely no idea what the word “sustainable” meant. I had a vague understanding of the words “sustain,” meaning to support life, “sustenance,” which means food, and “sustainable,” something that endures over time. Although the phrase baffled me, I did have an alarming sense that if I failed to follow the Ten Rules, I would probably not survive.

To be continued.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 @ 02:11 AM
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TRANSLATED BY C.D.N. COSTA                     1997



Seneca: c. 5 BC –AD 65


Chapter 1: On the Shortness of Life

Most human beings, Paulinus, (a friend of Seneca’s) complain about the meanness of nature, because we are born for a brief span of life, and because this spell of time that has been given to us rushes by so sweetly and rapidly that with very few exceptions life ceases for the rest of us just when we are getting ready for it. Nor is it just the man in the street and the unthinking mass of people who groan over this – as they see it – universal evil: the same feeling lies behind complaints from even distinguished men. Hence the dictum of the greatest of doctors (Hippocrates): ‘Life is short, art is long.’ Hence too the grievance, most improper to a wise man, which Aristotle expressed when he was taking nature to task for indulging animals with such long existences that they can live through five or ten human lifetimes, while a far shorter limit is set for men who are born to a great and extensive destiny. It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it. Just as when ample and princely wealth falls to a bad owner it is squandered in a moment, but wealth however modest, if entrusted to a good custodian, increases with use, so our lifetime extends amply if you manage it properly.

Why do we complain about nature? She has acted kindly: life is long if you know how to use it. But one man is gripped by insatiable greed, another by a laborious dedication to useless tasks. One man is soaked in wine, another sluggish with idleness. One man is worn out by political ambition, which is always at the mercy of the judgement of others. Another through hope of profit is driven headlong over all lands and seas by the greed of trading. Some are tormented by a passion for army life, always intent on inflicting dangers on others or anxious about danger to themselves. Some are worn out by the self-imposed servitude of thankless attendance on the great. Many are occupied by either pursuing other people’s money or complaining about their own. Many pursue no fixed goal, but are tossed about in ever-changing designs by a fickleness which is shifting, inconstant and never satisfied with itself. Some have no aims at all for their life’s course, but death takes them unawares as they yawn languidly – so much so that I cannot doubt the truth of that oracular remark of the greatest of poets: ‘It is a small part of life we really live.’ Indeed, all the rest is not life but merely time. Vices surround and assail men from every side, and do not allow them to rise again and lift their eyes to discern the truth, but keep them overwhelmed and rooted in their desires. Never can they recover their true selves. If by chance they achieve some tranquillity, just as a swell remains on the deep sea even after the wind has dropped, so they go on tossing about and never find rest from their desires. Do you think I am speaking only of those whose wickedness is acknowledged? Look at those whose good fortune people gather to see: they are choked by their own blessings. How many find their riches a burden! How many burst a blood vessel by their eloquence and their daily striving to show off their talents! How many are pale from constant pleasures! How many are left no freedom by the crowd of clients surrounding them! In a word, run through them all, from lowest to highest: one calls for legal assistance, another comes to help; one is on trial, another defends him, another gives a judgment; no one makes his claim to himself, but is exploited for another’s sake. Ask about those whose names are learned by heart, and you will see that they have these distinguishing marks: X cultivates Y and Y cultivates Z – no one bothers about himself. Again, certain people reveal the most stupid indignation: they complain about the pride of their superiors because they did not have time to give the man audience when they wanted one. But can anyone dare to complain about another’s pride when he himself never has time for himself? Yet whoever you are, the great man has sometimes gazed upon you, even if his look was patronizing, he has bent his ears to your words, he has let you walk beside him. But you never deign to look at yourself or listen to yourself. So you have no reason to claim credit from anyone for those attentions, since you showed them not because you wanted someone else’s company but because you could not bear our own.

  • Men do not let anyone seize their estates, and if there is the slightest dispute about their boundaries they rush to stones and arms; but they allow others to encroach on their lives – why, they themselves even invite in those who will take over their lives.
  • People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

I would fasten on someone from the older generation and say to him: ‘I see that you have come to the last stage of human life; you are close to your hundredth year, or even beyond: come now, hold an audit of your life. Reckon how much of your time has been taken up by a money-lender, how much by a mistress, a patron, a client, quarrelling with your wife, punishing your slaves, dashing about the city on your social obligations. Consider also the diseases which we have brought on ourselves, and the time too which has been unused. You will find that you have fewer years than you reckon. Call to mind when you ever had a fixed purpose; how few days have passed as you had planned; when you were ever at your own disposal; when your face wore its natural expression; when your mind was undisturbed; what work you have achieved in such a long life; how many have plundered your life when you were unaware of your losses; how much you have lost through groundless sorrow, foolish joy, greedy desire, the seductions of society; how little of your own was left to you. You will realize that you are dying prematurely.’

So what is the reason for this? You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that your fear, and like immortals in all that you desire. You will hear many people saying: ‘When I am fifty I shall retire into leisure; when I am sixty I shall give up public duties.’ And what guarantee do you have of a longer life? Who will allow your course to proceed as you arrange it? Aren’t you ashamed to keep for yourself just the remnants of your life, and to devote to wisdom only that time which cannot be spent on any business? How late it is to begin really to live when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!

You will notice that the most powerful and highly stationed men let drop remarks in which they pray for leisure, praise it, and rate it higher than all their blessings. At times they long to descend from their pinnacles if they can in safety; for even if nothing external assails or agitates it, high fortune of itself comes crashing down.

  • Among the worst offenders I count those who spend all their time in drinking and lust, for these are the worst preoccupations of all.

You can give me a list of miserly men, or hot tempered men who indulge in unjust hatreds or wars: but they are all sinning in a more manly way. It is those who are on a headlong course of gluttony and lust who are stained with dishonour. Examine how these people spend their time – how long they devote to their accounts, to laying traps for others or fearing those laid for themselves, to paying court to others or being courted themselves, to giving or receiving bail, to banquets (which now count as official business): you will see how their activities, good or bad, do not give them even time to breathe.

Finally it is generally agreed that no activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied – not rhetoric or liberal studies – since the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply, but rejects everything which is, so to speak, crammed into it. Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man; yet here is nothing which is harder to learn.

Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die. So many of the finest men have put aside all their encumbrances, renouncing riches and business and pleasure, and made it their one aim up to the end of their lives to know how to live. Yet most of these have died confessing that they did not yet know – still less can those others know. Believe me it is the sign of a great man, and one who is above human error, not to allow his time to be frittered away: he has the longest possible life simply because whatever time was available he devoted entirely to himself. None of it lay fallow and neglected, none of it under another’s control; for being an extremely thrifty guardian of his time he never found anything for which it was worth exchanging. So he had enough time; but those into whose lives the public have made great inroads inevitably have too little.

  • The man who spends all his time on his own needs, who organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day.
  • You must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long.
  • If each of us could have the tally of his future years set before him, as we can of our past years, how alarmed would be those who saw only a few years ahead, and how carefully would they use them!
  • Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future.
  • The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.

Life is divided into three periods, past, present and future.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 @ 04:04 AM
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Book review

In Feeding People is Easy, published in 2007, Colin Tudge points out that: “Food is the most pressing issue and the thing we absolutely have to get right. Get agriculture wrong, and everything else is compromised.” “The world population now stands at 6.4 billion (6400 million), of whom roughly 1 million are chronically undernourished and another billion suffer from the modern phenomenon of over-nourishment. Obesity in many communities is the norm.” “1 billion now live in urban slums. In 2006, the number in cities worldwide equalled the number in the countryside; on present trends by 2050 2/3 of all humanity will live in cities and the number of city-dwellers will exceed the total population of the present world.” “The lack of fresh water is second only to global warming in the league table of threats. Crops and livestock are especially thirsty.” “About 1/3rd of the world’s land – around 50 million square kilometres – is farmed. Now there are 120 people for every square kilometre of farmland. 40% of all the world’s farmland is already seriously degraded. As global warming bites and sea-levels rise, the world’s coastal strips, where much of the most productive farming is carried out, will disappear.” “The modern food supply chain uses a great deal of oil – 1/5th of US energy is used for food. Worldwide, 95% of all food production depends on oil.” “We are in for a century of weather extremes due to climate change. Ocean levels will rise as the ice caps melt. A one-metre rise will seriously encroach on the world’s coastal strips where half of all human beings live, and which include much of the world’s productive farmland. Many of the world’s crops will start to fail due to climate change.” “Genetic engineering cannot and will not provide any instant fix. It is just a technique. It is strategy and foresight that counts.” “In times of such uncertainty it is prudent to grow crops everywhere where they can be grown, in the hope and expectation that at least some of them will do well. And it makes sense to grow as many different crops as possible – different species, and different varieties within species – so as to spread the risk.”



PARI PUBLISHING                                    2007


Why Me – and Why This Book?

  • In the early 1970s food technologists, alias food processors, strategically poised between a growing band of nutritionists on the one hand and the newly industrial agriculturalists on the other, seemed to bestride the world. They were the scions and the heralds of science, with all its exactitude; and they were driven by the most unimpeachable principle of morality – nothing less than a desire to feed the human race.
  • More than 3 decades later, genetic engineering has come of age and the powers-that-be – government, agribusiness, scientists, and technologists, supported by economists, lawyers, and MBAs – are telling us that we will all starve unless we learn to love GMOs (generically modified organisms, where ‘organisms’ means crops and livestock). It was nonsense then and it is nonsense now.
  • The message of this book is that we can feed ourselves to the highest standards of both nutrition and of gastronomy and that we can do so effectively for ever; that we can do this without cruelty to livestock and without wrecking the rest of the world and driving other species to extinction; and that we can create human societies that are truly agreeable, co-operative and at peace, in which all manner of people with all kinds of beliefs and aspirations can be personally fulfilled.
  • The approach is to build upon the traditional crafts aided by science: The future lies with ‘science-assisted craft’ – if, that is, we are to have a tolerable future at all.
  • To achieve this we, humanity, must by-pass and generally sideline the powers-that-be. The world’s most powerful governments, industries, and their attendant experts and intellectuals have their minds set on quite different goals, and are pulling in quite different directions – to a large extent completely opposite to what is really required.
  • The human population will reach 9 billion by 2050 and it won’t be easy to feed everybody to the highest standards. Yet it should be well within our grasp. In this book I will explain how. But the harder task by far is to by-pass the powers-that-be.
  • ‘They’ do not know how to run the world, but they do know how to hang on to power. Revolution is not required. Renaissance is what’s needed – and that is very achievable.


Chapter 1: Good Food For Everyone Forever – But Only If We take Matters Into Our Own hands

  • The message of this book is as positive as anyone could hope for: the future could still be glorious. We, people at large, ordinary citizens, the ‘public’, just have to do things differently. We have to take matters into our own hands.
  • The cause of all our troubles has almost nothing to do with difficulties that nature presents us with. The fault lies almost entirely with policy and strategy.
  • I focus on the world’s food supply. Food is not the only thing we have to get right, but food is the most pressing issue and the thing we absolutely have to get right. Get agriculture wrong, and everything else is compromised.

The bad news

  • The world population now stands at 6.4 billion (6400 million), of whom roughly 1 million are chronically undernourished and another billion suffer from the modern phenomenon of over-nourishment. Obesity in many communities is the norm.
  • 1 billion now live in urban slums. In 2006, the number in cities worldwide equaled the number in the countryside; on present trends by 2050 2/3 of all humanity will live in cities and the number of city-dwellers will exceed the total population of the present world.
  • A Los Angeles family consumes more than an entire Bangladeshi village. It would require 3 planets Earth to raise everyone to the material standards of the average Brit.
  • The lack of fresh water is second only to global warming in the league table of threats. Crops and livestock are especially thirsty.
  • About 1/3rd of the world’s land – around 50m square kilometers – is farmed. Now there are 120 people for every square kilometer of farmland. 40% of all the world’s farmland is already seriously degraded. As global warming bites and sea-levels rise, the world’s coastal strips, where much of the most productive farming is carried out, will disappear.
  • The modern food supply chain uses a great deal of oil – 1/5th of US energy is used for food. Worldwide, 95% of all food production depends on oil.
  • Power is shifting from the West to the East – mainly China and India. In the mid-1990s Wal-mart got 94% of its products from within the US but now 80% of its suppliers are Chinese. Chinese workers are demanding better wages and soon their goods will go up in price. We will be obliged to buy their products because we have given up making things for ourselves.
  • The Chinese boom is not sustainable as they will suffer from declining oil like everybody else. They are already suffering climate change as the Gobi encroaches on Beijing at 30-50 km a year.
  • The rise of the East will not be smooth and the West, particularly the US, will not go quietly. The chances of world conflict as the superpowers scrabble for water, land, and particularly oil and the status of top dog are as great as they were at the height of the Cold War in the late 1950s.
  • We are in for a century of weather extremes due to climate change. Ocean levels will rise as the ice caps melt. A one-metre rise will seriously encroach on the world’s coastal strips where half of all human beings live, and which include much of the world’s productive farmland. Many of the world’s crops will start to fail.
  • Genetic engineering, for all the hype that has attended it, cannot and will not provide any instant fix. It is just a technique. It is strategy and foresight that counts.
  • If there is food to be bought on the world market when global warming starts to bite, who will be able to out-bid the Chinese?
  • Common sense suggests that in times of such uncertainty it would be prudent to grow crops everywhere where they can be grown, in the hope and expectation that at least some of them will do well. And it makes sense to grow as many different crops as possible – different species, and different varieties within species – so as to spread the risk.

The good news

  • When the world population reaches 9 billion, round about 2050, it should stabilize. It may not be easy to feed 9 billion people but it should be well within our grasp – even with global warming and diminishing oil. We should surely give it a go.
  • When human beings are given a chance to live our lives as we would like, we manage our affairs very well. Ordinary human beings are actually rather brilliant. It boils down to democracy: a central task is to make democracy work.
  • It is not how a society elects its leaders but whether it can get rid of them when it decides that they no longer serve its interests.
  • My proposals for rescuing the world include the idea that democracy is the key; the necessary changes can be brought about only by democratic means. Craft, too, is a vital and related concept. Agriculture as practiced through all but the last few decades of the past 10,000 years has been a craft industry.
  • Renaissance Italy built Florence and Siena and all the other great and enviable cities amidst the fields of a peasant economy – but it was only because they left the peasants alone to get on with their work that the glorious civilization that we have inherited was able to rise at all.
  • So what in practice do we need to do? First we need to get the moral philosophy right – to work out what we should be trying to do and why; and then we need to address the practicalities. I will look at the underlying philosophy in the next chapter. The practicalities occupy the rest of the book.


Chapter 2: Why Should We Give a Damn?

  • The task before us is to create a world that is good for 6.4 billion people now and also for 9 billion people by 2050, and for the estimated 5 to 8 million other species with whom we share this earth; and can go on catering for everyone and for other creatures forever.
  • We don’t need a majority to agree on what should be done; a critical mass is what’s needed.


How could anyone not give a damn?

  • Some – only a few perhaps, but they are out there – just don’t give a damn. Others do give a damn but believe that the government has something up its sleeve. Others agree with Voltaire that every man should cultivate his own garden.
  • I was brought up in a Christian tradition and Christians take it for granted that where there is moral wrong, then they should take it upon themselves to put it right.
  • The road to hell is paved with good intentions so there are all kinds of reasons for standing back, although some are rooted in indifference and selfishness.
  • In short: there are many, including some of the world’s most powerful people, who for a whole raft of reasons do not agree that the task before humanity is to take care of all humanity, and of our fellow creatures.


How do we know what’s good?

  • We cannot hope to discover or to define moral absolutes as if they were scientific laws.
  • It is right to cater for the whole human race. It is wrong to write people off, no matter how expedient this may be.
  • At the deepest level where morality truly begins, all the great religions are in agreement.
  • The 19th century Hindu mystic, Ramakrishna, summarized all when he suggested that the moral position of all the great religions and their prophets can be encapsulated in three irreducibly simple phrases: personal humility; respect for fellow, sentient creatures; and reverence for God.


Game theory, and why nasty people are in charge

  • Game theory offers insight into different moral philosophies, the simplest being hawks versus doves. It predicts that societies finish up with a majority of doves because most people are nice, cooperative and pacific. But the hawks will dominate even though they are in the minority, precisely because they are hawks; and the doves don’t want to fight back.
  • In any society the nice majority is bound to be ruled by people who simply want to rule. Nice people usually find themselves dominated by nasty people.
  • How can we create a democracy in which doves create societies dominated by doves when doves have no taste for domination? That is the central paradox and dilemma of humankind. I will address it in the last chapter.
  • Meanwhile, in lieu of true democracy, the powers-that-be are convinced that it is their right and destiny to rule, and the intellectual elite whom they employ are convinced that they alone know how to do things.
  • In truth the leaders are liable to be gangsters, while their compliant intellectuals to a significant extant emerge as idiots savants.
  • The real genius, moral and practical, lies with humanity at large. The future lies with what the great Enlightenment moralist, Adam Smith, called ‘human sympathy’; and it lies, as philosophers from John Ruskin to Ivan Illich have argued this past few hundred years, with craft; the skills that have evolved among humanity at large. Since food is the thing we absolutely have to get right, the most important crafts are those of farming and cooking.
  • I have met many people in high places who definitely are not gangsters but who ardently disagree with my general thesis that the world needs re-thinking from first principles. They say the status quo doesn’t need re-thinking. It just needs to be given a chance.

I take this class of criticism seriously, and do this in later chapters. First I want to present my own thesis: that the task is to make a world that is good for everyone forever; that to do this we need to think again from first principles; and that we must focus, above all, on the food supply chain – which means on farming and cooking.

Friday, April 1, 2011 @ 04:04 AM
posted by admin




PENGUIN BOOKS              2005



Chapter 1: A Global Family Portrait (Cont.)

Bangladesh: On the ladder of development

  • A few thousand miles away from this perfect storm is another scene of poverty. This is poverty in retreat, where the fight for survival is gradually being won, although still with horrendous risks and huge unmet needs.
  • This struggle is being waged in Bangladesh, one of the most populous countries in the world, with 140 million people living in the flood plains of the delta of the two great rivers, the Brahmaputra and the Ganges, that flow through Bangladesh on their way to the Indian Ocean.
  • Bangladesh was born in a war for independence against Pakistan in 1971, a year of massive famine, leading to the label of an “international basket case.”
  • Bangladesh today is far from a basket case. Per capita income has approximately doubled since independence. Life expectancy has risen from 44 years to 62 years. The infant mortality rate has declined from 145 in 1970 to 48 in 2002.
  • Bangladesh shows us that even in circumstances that seem the most hopeless thee are ways forward if the right strategies are applied, and if the right combination of investments is made.
  • Sweatshop jobs are the targets of public protest in developed countries; those protests have helped to improve the safety and quality of the working conditions.
  • The rich-world protesters, however, should support increased numbers of such jobs, albeit under safer working conditions, by protesting the trade protectionism in their own countries that keeps out garment exports from countries such a Bangladesh.
  • These young women already have a foothold in the modern economy that is a critical, measurable step up from the villages of Malawi – the first step out of extreme poverty.
  • What was most striking and unexpected about the stories was the repeated affirmation that this work was the greatest opportunity that these women could ever have imagined, and that their employment had changed their lives for the better.
  • The Bangladeshi women told how they were able to save some small surplus from their meager pay, manage their own income, have their own rooms, choose when and whom to date and marry, choose to have children when they felt ready, and use their savings to improve their living conditions and especially to go back to school to enhance their literacy and job-market skills.
  • As hard as it is, this life is a step on the way to economic opportunity that was unimaginable in the countryside in generations past.
  • Not only is the garment sector fueling Bangladesh’s economic growth of more than 5% per year in recent years, but it is also raising the consciousness and power of women in a society that was long brazenly biased against women’s chances in life.
  • We visited a village near Dhaka with one of the leaders of an inspiring nongovernmental organization, the Bangladeshi Rural Advancement Committee, now known universally as BRAC.
  • We met representatives from a village association, which BRAC had helped to organize, in which women living about an hour outside the city were engaged in small-scale commercial activities – food processing and trade – within the village and on the roads between the village and Dhaka itself.
  • These women presented a picture of change every bit as dramatic as that of the burgeoning apparel sector.
  • BRAC and its famed counterpart, Grameen Bank, pioneered this kind of group lending, in which impoverished recipients (usually women) are given small loans of a few hundred dollars as working capital for microbusiness activities.
  • Default rates are extremely low, and BRAC and Grameen have figured out how to keep transaction costs to a minimum.
  • The jobs for women in the cities and in rural off-farm microenterprises; a new spirit of women’s rights and independence and empowerment; dramatically reduced rates of child mortality; rising literacy of girls and young women; and, crucially, the availability of family planning and contraception have made all the difference for these women.
  • With fewer children, a poor household can invest more in the health and education of each child, thereby equipping the next generation with the health, nutrition, and education that can lift Bangaladesh’s living standards in future years.
  • Bangladesh has managed to place its foot on the first rung of the ladder of development, and has achieved economic growth and improvements to health and education partly through its own heroic efforts, partly through the ingenuity of NGOs like BRAC and Grameen bank, and partly through investments that have been made, often at significant scale, by various donor governments that rightly viewed Bangladesh not as a hopeless basket case but s a country worthy of attention, care, and development assistance.


India: center of an export services revolution

  • If Bangladesh has one foot on the ladder, India is already several steps up the ladder. Chennai is a center of India’s IT revolution, one that is beginning to fuel unprecedented economic growth in this vast country of one billion people.
  • The IT revolution is creating jobs that are unknown in Malawi and still largely unthinkable in Bangladesh, but that are becoming the norm for educated young women in India.
  • One company has a remarkable arrangement with a hospital in Chicago, where doctors dictate their charts and transmit them by satellite to India as voice files at the end of each work day in Chicago.
  • Dozens of young women who have taken a special course in medical data transcription earn about $250 to $500 a month, depending on their level of experience, between a tenth and a third of what a medical data transcriber might earn in the United States.
  • Their income is more than twice the earnings of a low-skilled industrial worker in India and perhaps eight times the earnings of an agricultural laborer.
  • The entrepreneur who started up this firm has close relatives in the United States who made the business connections on the U.S. side. It is moving from data transcription to financial record keeping, and soon into financial consulting and advising as well as back-office processing operations or BPO in the new jargon of the global economy.
  • They are women whose mothers, typically, were the first in the family to become literate and to gain a foothold in the urban economy (perhaps as seamstresses in the sweatshops), and whose grandmothers were almost without a doubt rural laborers in the overwhelmingly village economy of two generations before.
  • Many parts of India, particularly in the north, are still caught in the back-breaking rural poverty that grips Malawi and parts of Bangladesh. Much of urban India resembles Dhaka. Only a few leading “growth poles” share the cutting-edge feel of IT-driven Chennai.
  • Yet so powerful are the new trends in India, not only in IT but also in textiles and apparel, electronics, pharmaceuticals, automotive components, and other sectors, that the overall economic growth of India is reliably now 6% or more per year.
  • India is beginning to nip at the heels of China’s growth rates, and investors around the world are warming to the notion of establishing operations, from IT to manufacturing research and development, in the fast-growing economy.
  • One of the ironies of the recent success of India and China is the fear that has engulfed the United States that success in these two countries comes at the expense of the United States.
  • These fears are fundamentally wrong and, even worse, dangerous. They are wrong because the world is not a zero-sum struggle in which one country’s gain is another’s loss, but is rather a positive-sum opportunity in which improving technologies and skills can raise living standards around the world.
  • As India’s economy grows, its consumers opt for a growing array of U.S. and European goods and services for their homes and businesses.


China: The rise of affluence

  • Beijing has emerged not only as a major capital of the developing world, but also as one of the world’s economic capitals. It is now a booming city of 11 million. Annual income has surpassed $4,000 per capita, and the Chinese economy continues to soar at above 8% growth per annum.
  • My hosts showed me the new cell phones they had just purchased that were also digital cameras. This was a gadget that I had not yet seen back home.
  • Within a single generation, China has become one of the most important economies and trading powers of the world.
  • These young Chinese men and women have the chance to attain tremendous affluence, to travel the world, and to enjoy the other benefits of the high living standards available to them because of the powers of globalization.
  • Within two decades, China has gone from being a virtually closed society and economy to one of the great export powers of the world.
  • Its exports have been fueled by a vast inflow of foreign investment and technology, which brought the money to build modern factories together with the machinery and techniques to run them, in combination with relatively low-cost Chinese workers who are increasingly proficient in skills of all sorts.
  • The result has been the rise, in one industry after another, of highly competitive enterprises that have in-creased China’s exports from around $20 billion in 1980 to around $400 billion in 2004.


Ascending the ladder of development

  • The developing world falls into four broad categories. Malawi with 84% in rural areas, where men of working age have died of AIDS and the margin of survival is extraordinarily narrow but funding for one of the best conceived strategies was a fraction of that required – a perfect storm bringing together climatic disaster, impoverishment, AIDS, malaria, and schistosomiasis.
  • Bangladesh, with 76% in rural areas, the international basket case, not out of the grip of extreme poverty but where the fight for survival is gradually being won, with its foot on the first rung of the development ladder.
  • India, with 72% in rural areas, the center of an export services revolution and where overall economic growth is 6% per year.
  • China with 61% in rural areas, where economic development is speeding ahead at full throttle, economic growth is above 8% pa and annual income has surpassed $4,000 per capita.
  • If economic development is a ladder there are roughly one billion who live as the Malawians; a few rungs up there are 1.5 billion like those in Bangladesh; 2.5 billion another few rungs up like those in India; and still higher up the ladder one billion in the high income world.
  • The greatest tragedy of our time is that one sixth of humanity is not even on the development ladder, trapped by extreme poverty, disease, physical isolation, climate stress, environmental degradation.
  • Even though life-saving solutions exist to increase their chances for survival, these families and their governments simply lack the financial means to make these crucial investments.
  • The world’s poor know about the development ladder: they are tantalized by images from halfway around the world. But they are not able to get a first foothold on the ladder, and so cannot even begin the climb out of poverty.


Who and where are the poor?

  • There are many definitions, as well as intense debates, about the exact numbers of the poor, where they live, and how their numbers and economic conditions are changing over time.
  • Extreme poverty means that households cannot meet basic needs for survival. They are chronically hungry, unable to access health care, lack the amenities of safe drinking water and sanitation, cannot afford education for some or all of the children, and perhaps lack rudimentary shelter – a roof to keep rain out of the hut, a chimney to remove the smoke from the cook stove – and basic articles of clothing, such as shoes. Extreme poverty occurs only in developing countries.
  • Moderate poverty generally refers to conditions of life in which basic needs are met, but just barely.
  • Relative poverty is generally construed as a household income level below a given proportion of average national income.
  • The relatively poor, in high-income countries, lack access to cultural goods, entertainment, recreation, and to quality health care, education and other perquisites for upward mobility.
  • The World Bank has long used an income of $1 per day per person to determine the numbers of extreme poor around the world, and an income between $1 per day and $2 per day to measure moderate poverty.
  • It is estimated that roughly 1.1 billion people were living in extreme poverty in 2001, down from 1.5 billion in 1981.
  • The overwhelming share of the world’s extreme poor, 94% in 2001, live in three regions: East Asia, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Since 1981, the numbers of extreme poor have risen in sub-Saharan Africa, but have fallen in East Asia and South Asia.
  • Almost half of Africa’s population is deemed to live in extreme poverty, and that proportion has risen slightly over the period.
  • The proportion of the extreme poor in East Asia has plummeted, from 58% in 1981 to 15% in 2001. In South Asia progress is less dramatic, from 52% to 31%.
  • Latin America’s extreme poverty rate is stuck at around 10%. Eastern Europe’s rose from a negligible level in 1981 to 4% in 2001, the result of the upheavals of communist collapse and economic transition to a market economy.
  • East Asia, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa dominate with 87% of the world’s 1.6 billion moderately poor.
  • The numbers of moderate poor in East Asia and South Asia have actually risen as the poorest households have improved their circumstances from extreme poverty to moderate poverty.
  • Some 15% of Latin Americans live in moderate poverty, a rate that has been fairly constant since 1981.
  • A country as a whole is deemed to suffer from extreme poverty if the proportion of the population in extreme poverty is at least 25% of the total.
  • Most of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa are in extreme poverty (and even more would be in this category but for lack of reliable data), as are the countries of South Asia.
  • East Asia and Latin America include many countries in moderate poverty, but also many that have risen beyond moderate poverty in recent decades.
  • The poorest of the poor are mainly in the rural areas, though with a growing proportion in the cities.
  • They face challenges almost unknown in the rich world today – malaria, massive droughts, lack of roads and motor vehicles, great distances to regional and world markets, lack of electricity and modern cooking fuels – challenges that are at first harrowing to contemplate, but on second thought encouraging, precisely because they also lend themselves to practical solution.


Our generation’s challenge

  • Our generation’s challenge is to help the poorest of the poor to escape the misery of extreme poverty so that they may begin their own ascent up the ladder of economic development.
  • When I speak of the ‘end of poverty’ I speak of two closely related objectives. The first is to end the plight of one sixth of humanity that lives in extreme poverty and struggles daily for survival. Everybody on Earth can and should enjoy basic standards of nutrition, health, water and sanitation, shelter, and other minimum needs for survival, well-being, and participation in society.
  • The second is to ensure that all of the world’s poor, including those in moderate poverty, have a chance to climb the ladder of development. As a global society, we should ensure that the international rules of the game in economic management do not advertently or inadvertently set snares along the lower rungs of the ladder in the form of inadequate development assistance, protectionist trade barriers, destabilizing global financial practices, poorly designed rules for intellectual property, and the like, that prevent the low-income world from climbing up the rungs of development.
  • These, then, are the economic possibilities of our time: To meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015; To end extreme poverty by 2025; To ensure well before 2025 that all of the world’s poor countries can make reliable progress up the ladder of economic development; To accomplish all of this with modest financial help from the rich countries, more than is now provided, but within the bounds of what they have promised.
  • To meet these challenges, we first have to understand how we got to where we are, for in that understanding we will also find the way forward.


Chapter Two: The Spread of Economic Prosperity


Thursday, March 24, 2011 @ 05:03 AM
posted by admin



BACK BAY BOOKS                       2009



Chapter 4: Hiding/Seeking

In the typical cage for egg-laying hens, each bird has 67 square inches of space – the size of this page. Nearly all cage-free birds have approximately the same amount of space.

I’m not the kind of person who finds himself on a stranger’s farm in the middle of the night

  • We drove down the highway known as Blood Run because of both the frequency of accidents and the number of trucks that use the road to transport animals to slaughter.
  • I took the scrap of paper from my pocket and read it one last time:

In case any domestic animal is at any time impounded and continues to be without necessary food and water for more than twelve consecutive hours, it is lawful for any person, from time to time, as may be deemed necessary, to enter into and upon any pound in which the animal is confined, and supply it with necessary food and water so long as it remains so confined. Such person is not liable for the entry.

Your continued consideration

To Whom It May Concern at Tyson Foods:

I am following up on my previous letters of January 10, February 27, March 15, April 20, May 15, and June 7. To reiterate, I am a new father, eager to learn as much as I can about the meat industry, in an effort to make informed decisions about what to feed my son. Given that Tyson Foods is the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, your company is an obvious place to start. I would like to visit some of your farms and speak with company representatives about everything from the nuts and bolts of how your farms operate, to animal welfare and environmental issues. If possible, I would also like to speak with some of your farmers. I can make myself available at just about any time, and on relatively short notice, and am happy to travel as is needed.

Given your “family-centered philosophy” and recent “It’s What Your Family Deserves” advertising campaign, I assume you’ll appreciate my desire to see for myself where my son’s food comes from.

Thanks so much for your continued consideration.


Jonathan Safran Foer

The whole sad business

  • We’ve parked several hundred yards from the farm because C noticed in a satellite photo that it was possible to reach the sheds under the cover of an adjacent apricot grove.
  • The farm is set up in a series of seven sheds, each about 50 feet wide by 500 feet long, each holding in the neighborhood of 25,000 birds – although I don’t yet know these facts.
  • Everyone has a mental image of a farm, and to most it probably includes fields, barns, tractors, and animals, or at least one of the above. I doubt there’s anyone on earth not involved in farming whose mind would conjure what I’m now looking at. And yet before me is the kind of farm that produces 99% of the animals consumed in America.
  • With her astronaut’s gloves, C spreads the harp of barbed wire far enough apart for me to squeeze through.
  • With each step, my feet sink into a compost of animal waste, dirt, and I-don’t-yet-know-what-else that has been poured around the sheds. Huge fan units – maybe ten fans, each about four feet in diameter – come on and shut off intermittently.
  • We approach the first shed. Light spills from under its door. I wonder: Why would a shed full of animals be brightly lit in the middle of the night?
  • We spend several minutes looking for an unlocked door. Another why: Why would a farmer lock the doors of his turkey farm?
  • It can’t be because he’s afraid someone will steal his equipment or animals. There’s no equipment to steal in the sheds, and the animals aren’t worth the Herculean effort it would take to illicitly transport a significant number.
  • In the three years I will spend in animal agriculture, nothing will unsettle me more than the locked doors. Nothing will better capture the whole sad business of factory farming. And nothing will more strongly convince me to write this book.
  •  Even research organizations with paid staff find themselves consistently thwarted by industry secrecy. When the prestigious and well-heeled Pew Commission decided to fund a two-year study to evaluate the impact of factory farming, they reported that

there have been some serious obstacles to the Commission completing its review and approving consensus recommendations. In fact, while some industrial agriculture representatives were recommending potential authors for the technical reports to Commission staff, other industrial agriculture representatives were discouraging those same authors  from assisting us by threatening to withhold research funding for their college or university. We found significant influence by the industry at every turn: in academic research, agriculture policy development, government regulation, and enforcement.

  • The power brokers of factory farming know that their business model depends on consumers not being able to see (or hear about) what they do.


The rescue

  • The first thing that catches my attention is the row of gas masks on the near wall. Why would there be gas masks in a farm shed?
  • We creep in. There are tens of thousands of turkey chicks, huddled in groups, asleep beneath the heat lamps installed to replace the warmth their broody mothers would have provided. Where are the mothers?
  • I am surprised by how easy it is to forget the anonymous life all around and simply admire the technological symphony that so precisely regulates this little world-unto-itself, to see the efficiency and mastery of the machine, and then to understand the birds as extensions of, or cogs in, that machine – not beings, but parts.
  • The closer I look, the more I see. The ends of the beaks of the chicks are blackened, as are the ends of their toes. Some have red spots on the tops of their heads.
  • It takes me several minutes before I take in just how many dead ones there are. Some are blood matted; some are covered in sores. Some have been pecked at; others are as desiccated and loosely gathered as small piles of dead leaves. Some are deformed. The dead are the exceptions, but there are few places to look without seeing at least one.
  • C is kneeling over something. A chick is trembling on its side, legs splayed, eyes crusted over. Scabs protrude from bald patches. Its beak is slightly open, and its head is shaking back and forth.
  • C opens her bag and removes a knife. Holding one hand over the chick’s head, she slices its neck, rescuing it.


2. I am the kind of person who finds herself on a stranger’s farm in the middle of the night

That turkey chick I euthanized on our rescue, that was hard. One of my jobs, many years ago, was at a poultry plant. I was a backup killer, which meant it was my responsibility to slit the throats of the chickens that survived the automated throat slitter. I killed thousands of the chickens that way. Maybe tens of thousands. Maybe hundreds of thousands. In that context, you lose track of everything: where you are, what you’re doing, how long you’ve been doing it, what the animals are, what you are. It’s a survival mechanism, to keep you for going insane. But it’s its own insanity.

So because of my work on the kill line, I knew the anatomy of the neck and how to kill the chick instantly. And every part of me knew that it was the right thing to put it out of its misery. But it was hard, because that chick wasn’t in a line of thousands of birds to be slaughtered. It was an individual. Everything about this is hard.

I’m not a radical. In almost every way, I’m a middle-of-the-road person. I don’t have any piercings. No weird haircut. I don’t do drugs. Politically, I’m liberal on some issues and conservative on others. But see, factory farming is a middle-of-the-road issue – something most reasonable people would agree on if they had access to the truth.

I grew up in Wisconsin and Texas. My family was typical: My dad was (and is) into hunting; all of my uncles trapped and fished. My mom cooked roasts every Monday night, chicken Tuesday, and so on. My brother was All-State in two sports.

The first time I was exposed to farming issues was when a friend showed me some films of cows being slaughtered. We were teenagers, and it was just gross-out shit, like those “Faces of Death” videos. He wasn’t a vegetarian – no one was vegetarian – and he wasn’t trying to make me one. It was for a laugh.

We had drumsticks for dinner that night, and I couldn’t eat mine. When I held the bone in my hand ,it didn’t feel like chicken, but a chicken.. I always knew that I was eating an individual, I suppose, but it never hit me before. My dad asked me what was wrong, and I told him about the video. At that point in my life, I took whatever he said to be the truth, and I was sure he could explain everything. But the best he could come up with was something like “It’s unpleasant stuff.” If he’d left it there, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you now. But then he made a joke about it. The same joke everyone makes. I’ve hear it a million times since. He pretended he was a crying animal. It was revealing to me, and infuriating. I decided then and there never to become someone who told jokes when explanations were impossible.

I wanted to know if that video was exceptional. I suppose I wanted a way out of having to change my life. So I wrote letters to all of the big farm corporations, asking for tours. Honestly, it never crossed my mind that they would say no or not respond. When that didn’t work, I started driving around and asking any farmers I saw if I could look in their sheds. They all had reasons for saying no. Given what they’re doing, I don’t blame them for not wanting anyone to see. But given their secrecy about something so important, who could blame me for feeling that I needed to do things my own way?

The first farm I entered at night was an egg facility, maybe a million hens. They were packed into cages that were stacked several rows high. My eyes and lungs burned for days after. It was less violent and gory than what I’d seen in the video, but it affected me even more strongly. That really changed me, when I realized that an excruciating life is worse than an excruciating death.

The farm was so bad that I assumed it, too, had to be exceptional. I guess I couldn’t believe that people let that kind of thing happen on so large a scale. So I got myself into another farm, a turkey farm. By chance I’d come just a few days before slaughter, so the turkeys were full grown and jammed body to body. You couldn’t see the floor through them. They were totally crazy: flapping, squawking, going after each other. There were dead birds everywhere, and half-dead birds. It was sad. I didn’t put them there, but I felt ashamed just to be a person. I told myself it had to be exceptional. So I entered another farm. And another. And another.

Maybe on some deep level, I kept doing this because I didn’t want to believe that the things I’d seen were representative. But everyone who cares to know about this stuff knows that factory farms are nearly all there is. Most people aren’t able to see these farms with their own eyes, but they can see them through mine. I’ve videotaped conditions at chicken and egg factories, turkey factories, a couple of hog farms (those are basically impossible to get into now), rabbit farms, drylot dairies and feedlots, livestock auctions, and in transport  trucks. I’ve worked in a few slaughterhouses. Occasionally the footage will make its way onto the evening news or into the newspaper. A few times it’s been used in animal cruelty cases.

That’s why I agreed to help you. I don’t know you. I don’t know what kind of book you’re going to write. But if any part of it is bringing what happens inside those farms to the outside world, that can only be a good thing. The truth is so powerful in this case it doesn’t even matter what your angle is.

Anyway, I wanted to be sure that when you write your book you don’t make it seem like I kill animals all the time. I’ve done it four times, only when it couldn’t be avoided. Usually I take the sickest animals to a vet. But that chick was too sick to be moved. And it was suffering too much to leave be. Look, I’m pro-life. I believe in God, and I believe in heaven and hell. But I don’t have any reverence for suffering. These factory farmers calculate how close to death they can keep the animals without killing them. That’s the business model. How quickly can they be made to grow, how tightly can they be packed, how much or little can they eat, how sick can they get without dying.

This isn’t animal experimentation, where you can imagine some proportionate good at the other end of the suffering. This is what we feel like eating. Tell me something: Why is taste the crudest of our senses, exempted from the ethical rules that govern our other senses? If you stop and think about it, it’s crazy. Why doesn’t a horny person have as strong a claim to raping an animal as a hungry one does to killing and eating it? It’s easy to dismiss that question but hard to respond to it. And how would you judge an artist who mutilated animals in a gallery because it was visually arresting? How riveting would the sound of a tortured animal need to be to make you want to hear it that badly? Try to imagine any end other than taste for which it would be justifiable to do what we do to farmed animals.

If I misuse a corporation’s logo, I could potentially be put in jail; if a corporation abuses a billion birds, the law will protect not the birds, but the corporation’s right to do what it wants. That is what it looks like when you deny animals rights. It’s crazy that the idea of animal rights seems crazy to anyone. We live in a world in which it’s conventional to treat an animal like a hunk of wood and extreme to treat an animal like an animal.

Before child labor laws, there were businesses that treated their ten-year-old employees well. Society didn’t ban child labor because it’s impossible to imagine children working in a good environment, but because when you give that much power to businesses over powerless individuals, it’s corrupting. When we walk around thinking we have a greater right to eat an animal than the animal has a right to live without suffering, it’s corrupting. I’m not speculating. This is our reality. Look at what factory farming is. Look at what we as a society have done to animals as soon as we had the technological power. Look at what we actually do  in the name  of “animal welfare” and “humanness,” then decide if you still believe in eating meat.

3. I am a factory farmer

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 @ 04:03 AM
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PENGUIN BOOKS              2005


The Goal

For the first time in history, our generation has the opportunity to end extreme poverty in the world’s most desperate nations. Jeffrey Sachs lays out how poverty has been beaten in the past, how – in realistic, attainable steps – we can make a real difference for the one-fifth of humanity who still live in extreme poverty, how they can find partnerships with their wealthy counterparts to escape the poverty trap, how little it will actually cost, and how everyone can help. We can end poverty by 2025 and change the world for ever.

The author

Jeffrey Sachs is Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University as well as Special Advisor to the United Nations  Secretary General Kofi Annan. He is internationally renowned for his work as economic advisor to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Asia and Africa. He served the WHO under Gro Harlem Brundtland and directed the work of the UN Millennium Project. Bono has opened the eyes of millions of fans and citizens to the shared struggle for global equality and justice and through his gifted leadership has connected worlds that would otherwise have remained separate. Together with his close associates he pushes the agenda for global development to the forefront of often indifferent and unaware global leaders.

The plan

The plan laid out is not only a critical path to accomplish the 2015 Millennium Development Goal of cutting poverty by half, but a handbook on how we could be the first generation to unknot the tangle of bad trade, bad debt, and bad luck; to end the corrupt relationship between the powerful and the weak; to help the 15,000 people daily dying needlessly from AIDS, TB, and malaria; to help the 8 million people who die each year because they are too poor to stay alive; to address the plight of the world’s poorest of the poor, whose societies are destabilized by extreme poverty and thereby become havens of unrest, violence, and even global terrorism; to close the yawning gap between what the rich world claims to be doing to help the poor and what it is actually doing; to use our wealth wisely; to heal a divided planet; to end suffering of those still trapped by poverty; and to forge a common bond of humanity, security, and shared purpose across cultures and religions.

Peace and prosperity

This book is about making choices – choices that can lead to a much safer world based on a true reverence and respect for human life and will help to show the way toward the path of peace and prosperity, based on a detailed understanding of how the world economy has gotten to where it is today and how our generation can mobilize our capacities to eliminate extreme poverty.


Foreword by Bono 2004

  • Let me introduce myself. My name is Bono and I am the rock star student. Let me tell you how Jeff Sachs and I started this journey.
  • It started when my great friend Bobby Shriver had advised me to meet Jeff before I went up to Capitol Hill to lobby on behalf of Jubilee 2000 for the cancellation of the LDC’s (least developed countries’) debt to the rich countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) as part of the millennium celebrations.
  • Hunger, disease, the waste of lives that is extreme poverty are an affront to all of us. To Jeff it’s a difficult but solvable equation. An equation that crosses human with financial capital, the strategic goals of the rich world with a new kind of planning in the poor world.
  • The end of poverty is a challenge that’s hard to ignore. Jeff is hard to ignore. He’s not just animated; he’s angry. Because he knows that a lot of the crisis in the developing world can be avoided.
  • Staring at people queuing up to die and knowing that this doesn’t have to be so is too much for most of us. Jeff is creative. I am crushed.
  • Jeff is an economist  who can bring to life statistics that were, after all, lives in the first place. He helps us make sense of what senseless really means: fifteen thousand Africans dying each day of preventable, treatable diseases – AIDS, malaria, TB – for lack of drugs that we take for granted.
  • This statistic alone makes a fool of the idea many of us hold on to very tightly: the idea of equality. What is happening in Africa mocks our pieties, doubts our concern, and questions our commitment to that whole concept.
  • If we are honest, there’s no way we could conclude that such mass death day after day would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else. Deep down, if we really accept that their lives – African lives – are equal to ours, we would all be doing more to put the fire out. It’s an uncomfortable truth.
  • This book is about the alternative – taking the next step in the journey of equality. If we’re serious we have to be prepared to pay the price. Some people will say we can’t afford to do it. I disagree.
  • I think we can’t afford not to do it. In a world where distance no longer determines who your neighbor is, paying the price for equality is not just heart, it’s smart.
  • The destinies of the “haves” are intrinsically linked to the fates of the “have-nothing-at-alls.”
  • If we didn’t know this already, it became too clear on September 11, 2001. The perpetrators of 9/11 might have been wealthy Saudis, but it was in the collapsed, poverty-stricken state of Afghanistan that they found succor and sanctuary. Africa is not the front line in the war against terror, but it soon could be.
  • “The war against terror is bound up in the war against poverty.” Who said that? Secretary of State Colin Powell. When a military man starts talking like that perhaps we should listen.
  • In tense, nervous times isn’t it cheaper – and smarter – to make friends out of potential enemies than to defend yourself against them?
  • The plan Jeff lays out is not only his idea of a critical path to accomplish the 2015 Millennium Development Goal of cutting poverty by half – a goal signed up to by all the world’s governments. It’s a handbook on how we could finish the job.
  • We could be the first generation to outlaw the kind of extreme, stupid poverty that sees a child die of hunger in a world of plenty, or of a disease preventable by a 20-cent inoculation. 
  • We are the first generation that can afford it. The first generation that can unknot the whole tangle of bad trade, bad debt, and bad luck. The first generation that can end a corrupt relationship between the powerful and the weaker parts of the world which has been so wrong for so long.
  • In Jeff’s hands, the millstone of opportunity around our necks becomes an adventure, something doable and achievable. His argument is clear. We converge from our different starting points … he from markets, I from placards. Luckily we agree you need both.
  • Will we in the West realize our potential or will we sleep in the comfort of our affluence with apathy and indifference murmuring softly in our ears? Fifteen thousand people dying needlessly every day from AIDS, TB, and malaria. Mothers, fathers, teachers, farmers, nurses, mechanics, children.
  • This is Africa’s crisis. That it’s not on the nightly news, that we do not treat this as an emergency – that’s our crisis.

Future generations flipping through these pages will know whether we answered the key question. The evidence will be the world around them. History will be our judge, but what’s written is up to us. Who we are, who we’ve been, what we want to be remembered for. We can’t say our generation didn’t know how to do it. We can’t say our generation couldn’t afford to do it. And we can’t say our generation didn’t have reason to do it. It’s up to us. We can choose to shift responsibility, or, as the professor proposes here, we can choose to shift the paradigm.



  • This book is about ending poverty in our time. The $450 billion that the United States will spend this year on the military will never buy peace if it continues to spend around 1/30th of that, just $15 billion, to address the plight of the world’s poorest of the poor, whose societies are destabilized by extreme poverty and thereby become havens of unrest, violence, and even global terrorism.
  • The share of U.S. GNP devoted to helping the poor has declined for decades, and is a tiny fraction of what the United States has repeatedly promised, and failed, to give.
  • All parts of the world have the chance to join an age of unprecedented prosperity building on global science, technology, and markets. But certain parts of the world are caught in a downward spiral of impoverishment, hunger, and disease. Our task is to help them onto the ladder of development, from which they can then proceed to climb on their own.
  • Safety and prosperity depend on collective decisions to fight disease, promote good science and widespread education, provide critical infrastructure, and act in unison to help the poorest of the poor.
  • The wealth of the rich world, the power of today’s vast storehouses of knowledge, and the declining fraction of the world that needs help to escape from poverty all make the end of poverty a realistic possibility by the year 2025.


Chapter One: A Global Family Portrait

Malawi: The Perfect storm

  • As we arrive in the village, we see no able-bodied young men at all. In fact, older women and dozens of children greet us, but there is not a young man or woman of working age in sight. Where, we ask, are the workers? Out in the fields?
  • The aid worker who has led us to the village shakes his head sadly and says no. They are nearly all dead. The village has been devastated by AIDS, which has ravaged this part of Malawi for several years now.
  • There are just five men between 20 and 40 years of age left in the village. They are not there this morning because they are all attending the funeral of a fellow villager who died of AIDS the day before.
  • The margin of survival is extraordinarily narrow; sometimes it closes entirely. One woman we meet in front of her mud hut has 15 orphaned grandchildren.
  • She points to the withered crops that have died in the fields next to her hut. Her small plot, perhaps a half hectare (a little more than an acre) in all, would be too small to feed her family even if the rains had been plentiful.
  • The problem of small farm size and drought are compounded by yet another problem: the soil nutrients have been depleted so significantly in this part of Malawi that crop yields reach only about one ton of maize per hectare with good rains, compared with three tons per hectare that would be typical of healthy soils.
  • She reaches into her apron and pulls out a handful of semirotten, bug-infested millet, which will be the basis for the gruel she will prepare for the meal that evening. It will be the one meal the children have that day.
  • I ask her about the health of her children. She points to a child of about four and says that the small girl contracted malaria the week before. When they got to the hospital, there was no quinine, the antimalarial medicine, available that day. With the child in high fever, the grandmother and grandchild were sent home and told to return the next day.
  • In a small miracle, when they returned the next day after another 10-kilometer trek, the quinine had come in, and the child responded to treatment and survived.
  • More than one million African children, and perhaps as many as three million, succumb to malaria each year.
  • This horrific catastrophe occurs despite the fact that the disease is partly preventable – through the use of bed nets and other environmental controls that do not reach the impoverished villages of Malawi and most of the rest of the continent – and completely treatable.
  • There is simply no conceivable excuse for this disease to be taking millions of lives each year.
  • Our guide to Nthandire is a Christian aid worker, a dedicated and compassionate Malawian working for a local nongovernmental organization (NGO). He and his colleagues work against all odds to help villages such as this one. The NGO has almost no financing available and survives from meager contributions.
  • There are only poor in this village. No clinic nearby. No safe water source. No crops in the fields. And notably, no aid.
  • Attending school is now a hit-and-miss affair. Children are in and out of school with illness. Their attendance depends on how urgently they are needed at home to fetch water and firewood, or to care for siblings or cousins; on whether they can afford to buy supplies, a uniform, and pay local fees; and on the safety of walking several kilometers to the school itself.
  • We fly to the second city of the country, Blantyre, where we visit the main hospital of Malawi and experience our second shock of the day.
  • This hospital is the place where the government of Malawi is keen to begin a treatment program for the roughly 900,000 Malawians infected with the HIV virus and currently dying of AIDS because of lack of treatment.
  • The hospital has set up a walk-in clinic for people who can afford to pay the dollar a day cost of the antiretroviral combination therapy, based on Malawi’s arrangements with the Indian generic drug producer Cipla, which has pioneered the provision of low cost antiretroviral drugs to poor countries.
  • At the time of our visit, this treatment site is providing anti-AIDS drugs on a daily basis to about 400 people who can afford it – 400 people in a country where 900,000 are infected. For the rest, there is essentially no access to anti-AIDS medicine.
  • Democracy is bound to be fragile in an impoverished country where incomes are around 50 cents per person per day, or around $180 per person per year, and where the stresses of mass disease, famine, and climate shock are pervasive.
  • Amazingly, the Malawians have done it, while the international community has largely stood by through all of this suffering.
  • Malawi put together one of the earliest and best conceived strategies for bringing treatment to its dying population, and gave an enormously thoughtful response to the challenges of managing a new system of drug delivery, patient counseling and education, community outreach, and the financial flows that would accompany the process of training doctors.
  • Yet the international processes are cruel. The donor governments – including the United States and Europeans – told Malawi to scale back its proposal sharply because the first proposal was “too ambitious and too costly.”
  • After a long struggle, Malawi received funding to save just 25,000 at the end of five years – a death warrant from the international community for the people of this country.

Carol Bellamy of UNICEF has rightly described Malawi’s plight as the perfect storm, a storm that brings together climatic disaster, impoverishment, the AIDS pandemic, and the long-standing burdens of malaria, schistosomiasis, and other diseases. In the face of this horrific maelstrom, the world community has so far displayed a fair bit of hand-wringing and even some high-minded rhetoric, but precious little action.

Bangladesh: On the ladder of development


Monday, March 21, 2011 @ 03:03 AM
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In re-making the American Farm School to fit the post-war era, Bruce Lansdale knew that he could not do it alone, especially in a world where the values on which the School was founded found little support from the general public. The success of the institution preparing students combining high ethical values who would also be competent conducting their business in today’s world could only be accomplished with a strong and supportive board of trustees. Trustees of institutions like the American Farm School are more valuable than gold. What are the qualities which make for greatness in a trustee?

Qualities which make for greatness in a trustee

On November 7, 1985 at a Board of Trustees dinner honouring Mr. Henry R. Labouisse, Bruce Lansdale suggested that the following qualities contribute to greatness in a trustee:

  • Intimacy with the institution and staff, which stops short of involvement with their duties and responsibilities.
  • A deep concern tempered by objectivity.
  • A generosity of spirit guided by strong principles.
  • Inspired leadership which can delegate authority.
  • Concentration on detail as a guide to policy formation.
  • Compassion for staff and associates which doesn’t interfere with administration.
  • Cultivation of an outlook that deals with problems rather than personalities.
  • An involvement and concern for the students and other participants which reflects the institution’s primary goal.
  • Dedication to the institution’s mission with flexibility toward implementation of its goals.
  • The capacity to look at every side of every issue and then every side of every side.
  • Ability to verbalize the aims of the organization combined with an empathetic spirit which can listen as well as speak.
  • A willingness to sacrifice oneself which doesn’t demand a reward in return.
  • An eagerness and sense of pleasure in the endeavor which reflect on the spirit of the institution.
  • A realization that there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.
  • An enthusiasm for the institution’s programs which is contagious to those involved.
  • A recognition that as in all strong federations there must be a meeting of hearts even if there is not necessarily total agreement of minds.
  • A primary interest in the creative potential of the institution rather than in its possessive nature.
  • A delight in the adventure of guiding its programs rather than a continual emphasis on its physical acquisitiveness.
  • A dogged devotion to the task of trusteeship – be it managing investments, understanding the nuts and bolts of the operation, providing specific assistance on fund raising, a devotion which does not stand in the way of the responsibilities of the staff.
  • A deep love for the institution which leads to a concentration by everyone involved on individual strengths rather than weaknesses.


Henry Richardson Labouisse, the perfect Trustee

Henry R. Labouisse, first visited the American Farm School in 1963 after being appointed U.S. Ambassador to Greece. Later that year he was elected a member of the Board of Trustees and in 1980 he assumed the Chairmanship following his retirement from Unicef, the United Nations International Childrens’ Emergency Fund, which as an organization, won the Nobel Peace prize while Mr. Labouisse served as its Executive Director.

Speaking of Mr. Labouisse’s role at the School, Bruce Lansdale said: “Harry was the perfect Trustee. He was intimate with the institution and staff but stopped short of involvement with their duties and responsibilities. He had a deep concern for the School tempered by objectivity. He was generous in spirit but guided by strong principles. He inspired leadership but delegated authority. He could focus on details and understand their implications for policy formation. He had the capacity to look at every side of an issue, and yet come to a conclusion. He would give himself without thought of reward or personal interest. He realized that there was no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit. He took a real delight in guiding the School’s program without any sense of physical acquisitiveness. He had a dogged devotion to the task of Trusteeship, whatever the assignment, whatever the problem, and so inspired other Trustees to function at the highest limits of their abilities as well.”

Henry Richardson Labouisse, the man


Address of Henry R. Labouisse

at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

October 12, 1980

“The series of sermons, ‘For the Peace of the World’, comes at a particularly crucial time. A perilous war is at this very moment being fought in the Middle East; elsewhere, some countries are occupied by the armed forces of other nations; millions of people on four continents are refugees from violence and upheaval; and we hear an alarming amount of talk about increased armament and military build-ups.

The series is for United States Ambassadors, and you may wonder why a non-UN Ambassador should be addressing you today. When I asked “Why”, Dean Morton said that he would like me to talk about some of the social and economic problems which undermine the hopes for world peace.

When I look back upon the past forty years, during which I alternately served with the United States Government and the United Nations, I find that the issues of war and peace have been constantly with me, even though my work was – most of the time – removed from direct political action.

The Marshall Plan, with which I was associated, was a vast rescue operation aimed at bringing back economic health to the European countries ravaged by World War II. In the fifties, I found myself heading the United Nations agency dealing with one million Palestinian refugees in four countries of the Near East – the victims of a bitter conflict still unresolved today. The Cyprus problem, also still unresolved and aggravated, was already brewing twenty years ago when I served in Greece.

In 1965, I joined UNICEF – by definition a non-political agency. In the fifteen years of my tenure, the issues of war and peace came to me and my colleagues in two different ways:

First, UNICEF was repeatedly called upon to assist children – and sometimes large groups of population of all ages – during emergencies resulting either from natural disasters or from armed conflicts such as the civil war in Nigeria, the Vietnam war, the strife which brought about the independence of Bangladesh and, very recently, the war in Cambodia (now renamed Kampuchea). In such situations, UNICEF helps children wherever they can be reached, on all sides of the conflicts, without regard to race, religion or political beliefs. As an example, my last official field trip as Executive Director of UNICEF took me, last November, to Phnom Penh and our assistance programs inside Kampuchea, then to Vietnam, then back to Bangkok and the vast relief operation in the camps sheltering hundreds of thousands of displaced Cambodians along the Thailand border.

But what I want most to comment upon this morning is the other kind of potential threat to peace that UNICEF’s work for children in the 100 poorest countries of the world has brought constantly and vividly before my eyes.

It is what I have sometimes called the “quiet emergency” – a situation which persists from year to year without making headlines. It is the shocking contrast between the way of life which exists for most people in industrial countries and the deprivation, hunger and extreme poverty which affects about one billion men, women and children in the developing world.

The staggering statistics vary, of course, from country to country – but here are a few bare facts concerning the majority of the developing countries:

  • The infant mortality rate is from 5 to 10 times that of the industrialized countries; life expectancy at birth is almost one third shorter;
  • About one-fourth of the population suffer from malnutrition; millions, particularly children, die as a result of malnutrition each year;
  • It is estimated that only about 20% of the rural populations live within walking distance – say five or six miles – of any kind of adequate health facility; most of the people live and die – often tragically young – without ever receiving any modern health care;
  • About three-quarters of the rural population has no access to safe water;
  • In the poorest countries, a third of the children of primary school age (and nearly half of the girls) are not going to school.


Such are the realities of life in vast areas of our planet. Let us remember that prolonged deprivations – emotional as well as physical – endured by children during their early years can result in permanent damage. They can also engender bitter frustrations which provide fertile ground for future conflicts. I have difficulty in erasing from my memory a parade of children I attended not too long ago in an African town. Groups of children carried signs and banners, most of them optimistically worded, praising cleanliness, safe water, good studies at school. But there was one very different sign, carried by a little boy, which said: “I wept the day I was born, and every day explains why.”

It is indeed a cruel irony that the simplest human needs should so often be given low priority in the development process, and I would like to comment briefly upon some of the reasons why considerable efforts made so far have had only limited results:

  • In many cases, when big projects were started in developing countries to build up national infrastructure and industry, the expected social and human benefits have not, in fact, ‘trickled down’ to the poorest levels of society – to the villagers and slum dwellers. Most of them are just as poor as before.
  • Besides, the efforts made by developing countries have often been based on sophisticated and expensive models from the industrialised world. In very poor countries, the shortage of trained personnel and the lack of funds have made it impossible to extend essential services as health and basic education beyond a small percentage of the population.
  • Moreover, in many countries, rapid population growth automatically cancels even the slender progress that is being made toward meeting the needs of the poorest communities.


As if all these problems were not bad enough, some recent events have added new and formidable obstacles to their solution. In his 1980 report, the President of the World Bank, Robert McNamara, emphasized the deterioration of global economic prospects and the resulting very grave consequences for those developing countries which must import oil and which, at all times, have limited resources and fragile economies. For these countries, in the past two years alone, the new surge in oil prices has more than doubled the cost of importing energy. Simultaneously, the continuing recession in the industrialized nations is severely limiting demands for Third World exports. Mr. McNamara stresses that there will have to be major adjustments in the policies of all countries and a sustained effort on the part of the world community to make possible a vigorous economic recovery. The developing countries themselves, of course, will have to carry the main burden of the effort, but they will need all the help they can get.

I will not discuss further such complex economic problems, but I do want to say a few words about the change of emphasis which is already taking place in the social and human sectors of the development effort. There is more and more recognition of the fact that new methods must be used to bring to the populations most in need the essential services they have never known so far. The idea is to enlist the active participation of the communities themselves, at the level of the villages and the city slums, in order to make relatively simple services – such as primary health care and basic education – available to all deprived areas at low overall costs. For several years, the World Health Organization and UNICEF have been promoting this approach, particularly in the field of primary health care. A somewhat similar approach has been used for a long time in China, where an immense population seems to be reached by most essential services.

If we try to appraise the results of the multinational development effort in the past 30 years, we find a mixture of good and less good. Some important progress has been and is being made: for example, in the 38 lowest income countries, life expectancy at birth has increased from about 42 years in 1960 to 50 years in 1978 – reflecting a substantial reduction in infant and child mortality. Another example relates to the improvement of the social status and education of women and girls, an absolutely crucial factor in the entire development process. It is estimated that the percentage of girls enrolled in primary schools in those countries has almost doubled since 1960.

On the other hand, there have also been tragic difficulties and delays – and some failures. But, the experience of the last decades should not discourage us; rather, we should learn from it, try new approaches and seek with determination to vastly increase and broaden the scope of our efforts.

To me, the heart of the matter is this:

Will the decision makers, in both affluent and poor countries, have the foresight and political will to place as one of their principal objectives the breaking up of the cycle  of poverty and misery which keep in bondage the deprived populations of the Third World? If the will is there, the means then must be found, for concrete solutions are perfectly possible. Just to take one example: widespread malnutrition exists in several continents, yet our planet does not really lack food. Even during the worst famine years for some developing countries in the 1970s, the world as a whole was growing more food than was necessary to feed adequately every man, woman and child on the earth. The same is true for other basic resources, for energy, for water. As pointed out by the eminent British economist Barbara Ward:

“The failure of world society to provide a ‘safe and happy life’ for all is not caused by any present lack of physical resources. The problem today is not one of absolute physical shortage but of economic and social mal-distribution and misuse.”

This may be the time for us Americans to take a look at our own record.

The United States is a great and generous country which has accomplished miracles to help less fortunate nations and individuals. Among the American public, and particularly among our young people, there is great concern about problems such as the environment, world hunger, human rights, the plight of refugees that we have welcomed here by the hundreds of thousands. But those same public-spirited and sensitive Americans probably do not realize that, as a provider of foreign assistance to the Third World, our contributions have steadily declined to a level that our former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance recently qualified as “disgraceful”. Measured as a percentage of our gross national product, our total foreign aid assistance puts the U.S. today in the fifteenth place out of the seventeen non-communist major industrial countries. The communist countries, of course, are way behind us all. In 1965, the U.S. was in third place. In the days of the Marshall Plan, the U.S. was overwhelmingly the first, and almost the only provider.

Foreign aid has no American constituency benefiting directly from it and, in this election year, I do not hear any voice raised by candidates in its favor. What I do hear are repeated pleas to increase our military expenditure which will amount this year to more than $150 billion. In this trend we are not alone. The increase of military power seems to dominate world priorities and, for the eighth year in a row, world military expenditure increased faster than the rate of inflation: the total of such expenditures in the world is estimated at more than $500 million this year – about one million dollars a minute.

I am enough of a realist to know that, at this dangerous time of history, all nations, including our own, must be able to defend themselves against potential adversaries. But I am profoundly convinced that, by neglecting or postponing the indispensable offensive against extreme poverty, against malnutrition, disease, illiteracy, unemployment, we are, in the long run, putting all our societies – rich and poor – in the greatest peril. In our closely interdependent world, it will simply not be possible to prolong indefinitely a situation where poor and extremely populous countries are getting poorer, while affluent ones are getting richer and consume an extravagant proportion of our planet’s resources. Economic and human contrasts of such magnitude are, to my mind, basically more dangerous to world stability than are ideological differences or military build-ups.

As we all know, it is not only in the Third World that the fight for an acceptable quality of life must be carried on. Contrasts between rich and the needy exist not only between countries but within each nation. We too, in the United States, have our poor and hungry, and it would not take us too many steps outside this great cathedral to find areas of acute human deprivation. Moreover, some problems such as drug addiction, vandalism, crime and violence, child abuse, appear to be on the increase in industrial countries – as a result, perhaps, of the frustrations of life in large cities and of the gradual disappearance of traditional family values.

At a time of recession and inflation, of mounting prices, of high unemployment and political uncertainties, many Americans are, at this moment, justifiably concerned by their own difficulties. Even if our government and the Congress had the foresight to place greater emphasis on measures aimed at relieving human suffering and improving the quality of life, it would be awfully tempting to try to deal first with the problems of our country and to postpone action in the rest of the world.

I, for one, do not believe that we are at liberty to make such a choice. We can and should carry the fight on both fronts: the first reason is that when poverty and deprivation among great masses of humanity get down to the level of widespread hunger, remedies simply cannot wait; the second reason is that, while we are part of any global solution because of our capacity for aid, we are also part of the problem because of our extremely high standard of living and excessive consumption. It is also, I venture to say, a matter of conscience. Commenting on the industrial countries’ imperative responsibility for sharing the world resources with less fortunate nations, Willy Brandt, the former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, once said:

“Morally, it makes no difference whether a man is killed in war or is condemned to starve to death by the indifference of others.”

So what can we, as individuals, do about all this?

In the first place, those of us in a position to do so can share more of our material resources and devote much more of our work and our time to helping those in need. But, above all, let us raise our voices to make clear to our political and other leaders that we want a re-ordering of our national priorities – that our policies must give much more attention and concrete support toward meeting the essential needs, at home and abroad, of the vast number of people now living in crushing poverty, with little or no hope for the future.

A final word to conclude. Projections for the world’s population by the end of this century – only twenty years from now – are that our planet Earth will then have 6 billion inhabitants. About 40% will be children under 15 years of age. This gives us an idea of the dimension and the urgency of the work to be done. I pray that the generations of the next century will live in societies less cruel than our own and that there will be a great deal more justice and a great deal more peace all over the world.”

Saturday, March 19, 2011 @ 03:03 AM
posted by admin



University visit

In early March six university students and their instructor spent a week with us in Lakkia. The schedule prepared for them, the places visited, and the guest visitors we had in the evenings will be described in a later document. On their arrival, David gave this talk to the group.


Welcome to our organic farm in Lakkia, a village with just one shop surrounded by small farms, but conveniently located for the airport, the city of Thessaloniki, archeological sites and museums. From 2005, we – Christine and David Willis – have hosted students from your College under their credit course Nourishing Wisdom – mindfulness and social change. You will be accommodated in the family farmhouse where David has chickens and grows fruit and vegetables to organic standards. Christine is a ceramic artist who teaches the value of lovingly prepared, slowly savored Mediterranean food, incorporating the international travel experience called the Slow Food Movement – living better and being more productive by marrying la dolce vita with the dynamism of the information age. A feature of past visits has been keeping a diary to keep track of your experiences and reflections. This paper provides some background information to help you make the best of your visit.



In The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, Thomas Friedman tells us that the defining symbol of globalization is the World Wide Web which unites everyone. The defining measurement is speed of commerce, travel, communication and innovation. Globalization means the spread of free-market capitalism to virtually every country of the world with its own set of rules, but it sometimes leaves the less good players brutalized or left behind. If globalization were a sport, it would be the 100-meter dash, over and over. And no matter how many times you win, you have to race again the next day. And if you lose by just one-hundredth of a second it can be as if you lost by an hour. This is the tough, stressful world in which you are going to earn your living and raise a family.

Lifestyle and globalization

Friedman visited the Lexus luxury car factory in Japan producing 300 sedans a day, made by 66 human beings and 310 robots and that experience defined a world intent on building a better Lexus, dedicated to modernizing, streamlining and privatizing their economies in order to thrive in the system of globalization. The olive tree defined everything that roots us to the warmth of family life, the joy of individuality, the depth of private relationships, as well as the confidence and security to reach out and encounter others. For most people, corporations and nations the right balance between the Lexus and the olive tree has not yet been found. One purpose in inviting you to join us is to experience our lifestyle. We feel very much connected to the world and enjoy the benefits of globalization without the stress.

The problem is not new but the rules are new

Throughout history humanity has faced this problem of trying to find a balance between sustenance and security and enjoying the good things in life that we all work for. The previous era of globalization was built around falling transportation costs and it had its success stories and victims. Today’s era of globalization is built around falling communication costs and probably started with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. We are still in the early stages where dog eats dog, fast eats slow, and there is a mad scramble to be one of the top dogs. To be successful in this business environment will probably require sacrifice of the good things in life – sacrifice of the olive tree. For some it will be exciting and they will prosper. For others it will be hell. There are alternatives and Christine and I are living one of them. We hope that you will come away from your stay with us with food for thought on the kind of lifestyle that you would like to create for yourselves. 

What is new today

What is new today is the degree and intensity with which the world is being tied together into a single globalized marketplace and the number of people and countries able to participate and be affected by it. Daily foreign exchange trading in 1900 was measured in millions of dollars; in 1992 it was $820 billion a day. By April 1998 it was up to $1.5 trillion a day and still rising. Companies can locate production, research and marketing in different countries but still tie them together through computer and teleconferencing. Services such as medical advice can be traded globally. With modern technology it is often possible for the individual to live in a rural setting while still being part of the globalized market place. Christine and I have the benefit of both the Lexus and the olive tree by living in Lakkia.



In Western society, cancer is the second greatest killer after coronary heart disease. Research suggests that poor diet, poor lifestyle and stress contribute significantly to their onset. In Proof Positive: How to Reliably Combat Disease & Achieve Optimal Health Through Nutrition & Lifestyle by Neil Nedley, M.D. we learn that it is possible to reduce coronary heart disease risk by 90% and cancer risk by as much as 80% through the right diet and lifestyle. For the vast majority of us, our health is primarily dependent upon two factors: what we put into our bodies; and what we do with our bodies. A simple word that encapsulates both of these concepts is ‘lifestyle’.

The nine leading causes of death are largely related to lifestyle choices

We recognize the necessity of proper care to get the longest life and best performance out of our automobiles. When will we realize that proper care also gives our bodies the longest life and best performance? The nine leading causes of death are largely related to lifestyle choices and are preventable. Many deaths due to infectious diseases are caused by an immune system that is weakened by a poor lifestyle. How we live day by day determines whether our immune system works at peak levels. Three of the important ways to help our immune system are diet, exercise and stress control.

The most healthful diet in the world

Dr Nedley tells us that eating freely of fruits, grains, vegetables, and nuts in moderation, prepared in a variety of ways, offers us the most healthful diet in the world. It eliminates a host of cancer-causing substances, is ideal for maintaining proper weight, it boosts the immune system by making use of vitamins A, C, and E and other very important protective phytochemicals and fiber. Coupling this diet with regular exercise will boost the immune system even further.



The Mediterranean diet

The information below is taken from books on the Mediterranean diet reviewed on our website

Mortality rate from the “Seven Country Study”

(per 100,000 inhabitants) Serge Renaud: The Mediterranean Diet)

Country                 Coronary                     Cancer                        Mortality


Finland                  972                              613                              2169

US                         773                              384                              1575

Netherlands           636                              781                              11825

Italy                       462                              622                              1874

Yugoslavia            242                              394                              1712

Corfu                     202                              338                              1317

Japan                     136                              623                              1766

Crete                     38                                17                                855

Cretans age well because they eat well

The conclusions of studies were that the Cretans age well because they eat well. Among the peoples of the Mediterranean the Greeks have the most balanced diet. With basic ingredients of olive oil, fruit, vegetables, cereals, wine, fish, honey, and herbs – produced with a high nutritious value – the Greek diet is a model for a healthy way of life, well suited to the modern lifestyle. It is the Mediterranean diet, as it was before 1960, that Christine provides for the family and teaches our guests.


Carl Honoré’s In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed tells us that Harry Lewis, Dean of the undergraduate school at Harvard, attended a meeting at which one undergraduate wanted to double major in Biology and English, and cram all the work into three, instead of the usual four, years. After the meeting, Lewis reflected on how the 21st century student has become a disciple of hurry.

A letter from the dean

In the summer of 2001, the Dean wrote an open letter to every first-year undergraduate at Harvard. It was an impassioned plea for a new approach to life on campus and beyond. It was also a neat précis of the ideas that lie at the heart of the Slow philosophy. The letter, which now goes out to Harvard freshmen every year, is entitled: Slow Down. Over seven pages, Lewis makes the case for getting more out of university – and life – by doing less. He urges students to think twice before racing through their degrees. It takes time to master a subject, he says, pointing out that top medical, law and business schools increasingly favor mature candidates with more to offer than an “abbreviated and intense undergraduate education.”

Not too many extracurricular activities

Lewis warns against piling on too many extracurricular activities. What is the point, he asks, of playing lacrosse, chairing debates, organizing conferences, acting in plays and editing a section of the campus newspaper if you end up spending your whole Harvard career in overdrive, striving not to fall behind schedule? Much better to do fewer things and have time to make the most of them.

The less-is-more approach.

When it comes to academic life, Lewis favors the same less-is-more approach. Get plenty of rest and relaxation, he says, and be sure to cultivate the art of doing nothing. “Empty time is not a vacuum to be filled. It is the thing that enables the other things on your mind to be creatively rearranged.” In other words, doing nothing, being Slow, is an essential part of good thinking.

Selective slowness can help students to live and work better

Lewis is as keen on hard work and academic success as the next Harvard heavyweight. His point is simply that a little selective slowness can help students to live and work better. “In advising you to think about slowing down and limiting your structured activities, I do not mean to discourage you from high achievement, indeed from the pursuit of extraordinary excellence. But you are more likely to sustain the intense effort needed to accomplish first-rate work in one area if you allow yourself some leisure time, some recreation, some time for solitude.”


Cooking your own Greek dishes

Under Christine’s watchful eye, you will pick ingredients from the garden, collect eggs from our free-range chickens, make your own bread with organic flour, learn the lessons of appreciation, connection and compassion through shopping at local markets for fresh, seasonal foods from farmers and vendors, cook your own Greek dishes and share your meals with our family – sometimes with an interesting guest.

Visiting places of special interest

By about 10am, after the daily meals have been prepared, we will take you to meet the incredibly warm and welcoming locals, visit places of special interest to the group and explore the city of Thessaloniki with its Byzantine churches and abundant flower, olive, meat and fish markets. There is a large choice of museums and archeological sites that can be reached within a comfortable day trip from our farm house.

A two-mile walk

The day usually starts or ends with a two-mile walk with views of Mt. Olympus, along country roads where you are more likely to meet sheep and goats than a car.


Evenings provide time for recreation, discussion, reflection, journal writing, and on creative projects related to Christine’s expertise as a ceramic artist.


Our mission

Our mission is to share with others our joie de vivre in making a comfortable living from a small piece of land where David grows much of our food. Christine is a ceramic artist and teacher who gains her inspiration from ancient Greek and Byzantine pottery.

We are citizens of the world

When people ask where we are from, we answer that we are citizens of the world. Mankind is one and we are all leaves of one tree and flowers of one garden.  Only when we all buy into that way of thinking will we attain world peace. Socrates, the Greek philosopher who lived from 469 to 399 BC, said “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” He had the wisdom more than 2000 years ago to state that the only way to live harmoniously with your fellow humans is to consider yourself a citizen, not of your country, but of the world. We are living in the age of a global village but we haven’t yet learned how to behave sensibly in the global village.

Education of the mind, body and spirit

We believe that to be a whole person we need to educate the mind, body and spirit. We keep fit by our daily walks, playing tennis, and swimming. We keep our minds active with bridge and games. Much of our time is spent on our spiritual development. We believe our small efforts, combined with that of others, will create an energy that is larger than we can imagine and will help to create peace on Earth.


My training

I was trained by a folk potter on the Greek island of Siphnos and earned my B.A. in Ceramics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Since 1981 I have been creating and teaching pottery in my studio in the Greek countryside.  I am Head of the Ceramics Department at the American Farm School in Thessaloniki.

My work

My work has gone through a number of phases; currently I am very interested in hand burnished pit fired pots and Byzantine motifs. During my formative years my parents took me to almost every museum in Greece and my work is inspired by the pottery I saw. My pottery studio is on the ground floor of our house.

Hand burnished pit fired pots

These wheel thrown hand-burnished pots are inspired by centuries old pottery found in many of Greece’s museums.  Each piece has its own special shape, but follows the definition of form and style created by potters from Ancient Greece. Each pot is fired to 1060ºC and then pit fired in an outdoor sawdust kiln, where the results are unique and unpredictable, then polished with a special wax and enhanced with gold leaf.

Byzantine motifs

Bowls in various sizes and shapes are created using the age old technique of scraffito, etching through colored slip to create a design inspired by pieces found in the Byzantine museum of Thessaloniki.

Special assignments

I undertake special assignments. Mount Athos had an exhibition in Vienna, Austria in 2007 and I was asked to make pieces to their design. In February 2004 I conducted a special seminar – Conflict Resolution with Clay – for Palestinian and Israeli Youth. One of my specialities is making one-off, personalized pieces as a wedding present, retirement gift, etc.


For many years my students and I have participated in exhibitions, both local and national, such as the Anetopoulos Pottery Museum, Volos; the Pan Hellenic Exhibit in Maroussi; the Pan Hellenic Ceramics Festival, Thessaloniki; and the Cultural Center, Pylea, Thessaloniki. It was hand burnished pit fired pots with Byzantine motifs that were the subject of a recent exhibition sponsored by the Thessaloniki Curator of Byzantine Monuments. My dream has always been to exhibit my work in New York and this dream came true in November 2010 when my work was on display at the New York Design Center on Lexington Avenue.

The local rehabilitation clinic

Since 2006 I have been conducting art therapy classes at the local rehabilitation clinic, Anayennisi, where accident and stroke victims have the opportunity of working with clay.

Teenagers with special needs

We work closely with Enthynami, whose focus is on mainstreaming teenagers with special needs.

School children

Each year we have school children visit us for about three hours. They are introduced to all aspects of pottery making from the wheel to the kiln; Various designs and different clays; Pottery making in Ancient Greece through Byzantine times; Hands on work on the wheel and with clay; An art that has deep roots in Greek culture and history; A project that is relevant to what is being taught in the classroom, such as a particular period of Greek culture or history; Our organic farm and the many herbs, flowers and trees we have growing here; Creating their own notebook with the leaves and names of our plants


Pottery camp

Another facet of my life that I love is the pottery camp for kids at the beginning of the summer break. It is a one-week or two-week, in-depth extension of the day visits for children, with the opportunity for participants to learn the potter’s skills and create their own pieces. Children collect eggs from the chickens, harvest fruit and vegetables from David’s garden, plant seeds and make cuttings. They bake bread and learn some of the basic skills of cooking.  They are exposed to the richness and benefits of living the rural life within easy reach of the city.



Several times a year we host all-day workshops in kiln building, throwing a large Cretan urn, building and firing paper kilns, and pit-firing burnished clay with chicken manure and wood shavings.


On leaving university

After training to be a civil engineer in 1961, I volunteered my services for two and a half years in Epirus, a part of Greece where electricity and roads had not yet reached remote areas. Many was the time when we had to abandon our four-wheel drive Land Rover and walk to a village where many of the families we were helping had mud floors. I worked closely with the district engineer on village improvement projects, paying the villagers with surplus food provided by the government of the United States through Church World Service.


My career

Anatolia College in Thessaloniki, needing an engineer to supervise projects funded by the United States government through their Schools and Hospitals Abroad Program, employed me from February 1964. Six months later, when the new president of the College arrived, I was invited to try my hand as business manger, a position I held until 1971. I then moved back to England, taught at Dulwich College Preparatory School in London from 1971-73 and was Administrator of The American School in London from 1973-78. In 1978, Bruce Lansdale, the Director of the American Farm School in Thessaloniki, invited me back to Greece where I worked until my retirement in 2004. 

Education and agriculture

My years as business manager in schools convinced me that education is the most important building block of a successful society. The best way to help a poor country is to assist their educational system so people retain their pride in building a prosperous society themselves. As Acting Farm Manager of the American Farm School, I realized that if a country cannot feed itself on good nutritious food it is lost. It is a tragedy that the U.S. Surgeon General said that of the 2.2 million deaths in America each year, 1.8 million are diet related. I was involved with environmental projects, and started a worm project for turning the School’s manure into black gold. I learned that the heating and cooling of Zurich airport in Switzerland is by geothermal energy and see this as a major under-utilized alternative to fossil fuels.


My cancer

Six months after retirement in 2004 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The following year six good friends of the family died from cancer. The next year, my 40 year-old daughter from my first marriage was obliged to have an emergency mastectomy because of botched tests during her annual check up. This was my wake-up call. I now have completely different priorities in my life, have adopted a new world view and my value system has changed completely. I am conducting my own self-directed Life Long Learning program and now have a burning desire to share insights gained with others, especially young people. I believe that youth can move the world and do a far better job than the older generation of creating the kind of world we all want.


After my cancer I selected gardening as my occupation because it is low stress, close to nature, and provides the opportunity to provide wholesome, nutritious food for the family, guests, and friends. Gardening is my prayer, my meditation and my physical exercise.

Healthy food comes from healthy soil

Healthy food comes from healthy soil. The primary factor in health is nutrition and the nutritive value of food is vitally affected by the way in which it is grown and processed. Producing the best food possible is an essential part of our living the slow philosophy and enjoying a healthy life.

Abraham Lincoln

It was Abraham Lincoln who said “The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.” As our society experiences increasingly troubled times, I believe that people in both rich and poor countries will see the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln’s foresight.

Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy has become our foundation stone

Adopting Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy fitted well with my decision to take up gardening following my cancer. My job is to reduce our expenses by providing as much of our food as possible. Christine’s job is to earn enough income so that we can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. We love our lifestyle and I give thanks every day that what is considered a bad thing – my cancer – has actually resulted in my discovering a much richer side to life than just making money.

Learning from the ancient Greeks

I am posting reviews of books on the ancient Greeks on our website. Edith Hamilton, in The Greek Way to Western Civilization, states: “Five hundred years before Christ, in a little town on the far western border of the settled and civilized world, a strange new power was at work. There a light was lit that can never go out, that has indeed never been matched in the centuries since. Athens had entered upon her brief and magnificent flowering of genius which so molded the world of mind and spirit that our mind and spirit today are different. In that black and fierce world a little center of white-hot spiritual energy was at work. A new civilization had arisen in Athens, unlike all that had gone before. It is worth our while in the confusions and bewilderments of the present to consider the way by which the Greeks arrived at the clarity of their thought and the affirmation of their art.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011 @ 03:03 AM
posted by admin







  • Eighty-four years ago in this city, Woodrow Wilson spoke of war and peace to a joint session of Congress. “What we demand” he said, “is that the world be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice, and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world. All peoples are partners in this interest, and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice be done to others it will not be done to us.”
  • Our challenge, as we go forward to the Monterrey Conference and beyond, is to persuade political leaders that marginalization must end; why justice must be done to others if it is to be done to us; why all peoples are partners in this interest.
  • We will not create that better and safer world with bombs or brigades alone. We will not win the peace until we have the foresight, the courage, and the political will to redefine the war.
  • We must recognize that – while there is social injustice on a global scale, both between states and within them; while the fight against poverty is barely begun in too many parts of the world; while the link between progress in development and progress toward peace is not recognized – we may win a battle against terror but we will not conclude a war that will yield enduring peace.
  • Poverty is our greatest long-term challenge. Grueling, mind-numbing poverty – which snatches hope and opportunity away from young hearts and dreams just when they should take flight and soar.
  • Poverty – which takes the promise of a whole life ahead and stunts it into a struggle for day-to-day survival.
  • Poverty – which together with its handmaiden, hopelessness, can lead to exclusion, anger, and even conflict.
  • Poverty – which does not itself necessarily lead to violence but which can provide a breeding ground for the ideas of those who promote conflict and terror.
  • On September 11, the crisis of Afghanistan came to Wall Street, to the Pentagon, and to a field in Pennsylvania. And the imaginary wall that divided the rich world from the poor world came crashing down.
  • Belief in that wall, and in those separate and separated worlds, has for too long allowed us to view as normal a world where less than 20% of the population – the rich countries in which we are today – dominates the world’s wealth and resources and takes 80% of its dollar income.
  • Belief in that wall has too long allowed us to view as normal a world where every minute a woman dies in childbirth.
  • Belief in that wall has allowed us for too long to view the violence, disenfranchisement, and inequality in the world as the problem of poor, weak countries and not our own.
  • There is no wall. There are not two worlds. There is only one.
  • There is no wall. We are linked by trade, investment, finance, by travel and communications, by disease, by crime, by migration, by environmental degradation, by drugs, by financial crises, and by terror.
  • Only our mindsets continue to shore up that wall; we are too set in our ways, too complacent, or too frightened to face reality without it.
  • It is time to tear down that wall, to recognize that in this unified world poverty is our collective enemy. Poverty is the war we must fight. We must fight it because it is morally and ethically repugnant. We must fight it because it is in the self-interest of the rich to join the struggle. We must fight it because its existence is like a cancer – weakening the whole of the body, not just the parts that are directly affected.
  • And we need not fight blindly. For we already have a vision of what the road to victory could look like.
  • Last year, at a summit held at the United Nations, more than 140 world leaders agreed to launch a campaign to attack poverty on a number of fronts.
  • Together, we agreed to support the Millennium Development Goals. By 2015, we said, we will: Halve the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day; Ensure that boys and girls alike complete primary schooling; Eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education; Reduce child mortality by two-thirds; Reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters; Roll-back HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; Halve the proportion of people without access to safe water; And develop a global partnership for development.
  • How could anyone take issue with these goals? How could anyone refuse to stand up and say that for my children and my children’s children, I want that better world?
  • And yet, there are those who legitimately ask: Can we win a war against poverty? And if we can’t be sure, should we wager our resources?
  • To these people I would ask: Can we afford to lose? How much are we prepared to commit to preserve our children’s future? What is the price we are willing to pay to make progress in our life time toward a better world?
  • We have learned that policies imposed from London or Washington will not work. Countries must be in charge of their own development. Policies must be locally owned and locally grown.
  • We have learned that any effort to fight poverty must be comprehensive. There is no magic bullet that alone will slay poverty. But we know too that there are conditions that foster capacity of the country: Good and clean government; An effective legal and justice system, and; A well-organized and supervised financial system.
  • We have learned that corruption, bad policies, and weak governance will make aid ineffective, and that country-led programs to fight corruption can succeed.
  • We have learned that debt-reduction for the most highly indebted poor countries is a crucial element in putting countries back on their feet, and that the funds released can be used effectively for poverty programs.
  • We have learned that we must focus on the conditions for investment and entrepreneurship, particularly for smaller enterprises and farms. But that is not enough for pro-poor growth. We must also promote investment in people, empowering them to make their own choices.
  • We have learned that development is about the long haul, reaching beyond political cycles or quick fixes – for the surest foundation for long-term change is social consensus for long-term action.
  • What is it that leaders in rich countries should do? First they must assist developing countries to build their own capacity in government, in business, and in their communities at large.
  • Second, they must move forward on trade openness, recognizing that without market access poor countries cannot fulfill their potential no matter how well they improve their policies.
  • Third, rich nations must take action to cut agricultural subsidies – subsidies that rob poor countries of markets for their products.
  • Fourth, rich countries must recognize that even with action on trade or agricultural subsidies, there is still a fundamental need to boost resources for developing countries.
  • We estimate that it will take on the order of an additional $40 to $60 billion a year to reach the Millennium Development Goals – roughly a doubling of current aid flows – to roughly 0.5% of GNP, still well below the 0.7% target agreed to by global leaders years ago.
  • Contrast that with the fact that today the world’s leading industrial nations provide nearly 90% of the multibillion dollar arms trade – arms that are contributing to the very conflicts that all of us profess to deplore, and that we must spend additional monies to suppress.
  • Let me repeat: We should do it because it is ethically right; We should do it because it will make a better, more understanding, more dynamic, and indeed more prosperous world for our children and our children’s children; We should do it because it will increase the security of all of us, rich and poor; We know that disease, the environment, financial crises, and even terror do not recognize national boundaries; We know that imaginary walls will not protect us.
  • If we want to build long-term peace, if we want stability for our economies, if we want to build that better and safer world, fighting poverty must be part of national and international security.
  • I do not underestimate the challenge of securing an extra $50 billion for development. But I know, as do many others, that this is the place to put our money. The conquest of poverty is indeed the quest for peace.
  • I believe there is a sea change since September 11th. People everywhere are beginning to recognize: That military solutions to terror are not enough; That people must be given hope; That we must build an inclusive global community; That we must make globalization stand for humanity, not for commercial brands or competitive advantage.
  • My friends: For centuries, we have focused on issues of war and peace. We have built armies and honed strategies. Today we fight a different kind of world.
  • A world where violence does not stop at borders; a world where communications sheds welcome light on global inequities; where what happens in one part of the world affects another.
  • Inclusion, a sense of security, empowerment, anti-corruption: These must be our weapons of the future.
  • I believe we have a greater chance today, than perhaps at any other time in the last 50 years, to win that war and forge that new partnership for peace.
  • Together, we must persuade finance ministers that when they discuss their budgets, together with defense and domestic spending, they must give equal weight to international spending.
  • But we must go further. We must change the mindsets that build walls.
  • Across the world, we must educate our children to be global citizens with global responsibilities. We must celebrate diversity, not fear it. We must build curricula around understanding, not suspicion; around inclusion, not hate. We must tell our children to dare to be different – international, intercultural, interactive, global.
  • We must do better with the next generation than we have done with our own.


Let me end, as I began, with the words of Woodrow Wilson – words that reach out across cultural and national divides: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you imp