Permaculture Poised to Conquer the Caribbean
No fertilisers, herbicides, or pesticides but a bold vision to save a region from climate change and resource scarcity
by Mark Olalde
Erle Rahaman-Noronha cutting produce on his farm. (Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS)FREEPORT, Trinidad and Tobago – Erle Rahaman-Noronha is not a revolutionary, not in any radical sense at least. He is not even that exciting. In truth, Rahaman-Noronha is merely a man with a shovel, a small farm, and a big dream. But that dream is poised to conquer the Caribbean.
Rahaman-Noronha wants to see ‘permaculture’ – short for permanent agriculture – take root and spreads across the Caribbean, and he is doing his part by teaching anyone who will listen about its benefits.
Joining him is a fluid group of permaculturalists working from their home islands and sharing the same goal: to harness permaculture as a solution to climate change, food and water insecurity, and rising costs of living.
“You can start in your backyard, so there’s no cost. You can implement certain parts of it in your apartment…If you have a porch with some sunlight, you can plant something there and start thinking about permaculture.”
— Erle Rahaman-Noronha, permaculturalist
Author of the manual, Australian Bill Mollison, first used the term nearly four decades ago and since then the idea has spread to Europe and the U.S. Now, the developing Caribbean is beginning to embrace the philosophy of permaculture, especially since 2008’s global recession.
Born in Kenya, Rahaman-Noronha – whose work was recently highlighted in a TEDx talk – fulfilled a keen interest in the environment by studying applied biochemstry and zoology in Canada.
“I’ve always had a strong passion for the outdoors and conservation, but just doing conservation doesn’t make money,” he says with a chuckle. “Permaculture allows me to live on a site, produce food on a site, produce an income, as well as practice conservation.”
Wa Samaki is Rahaman-Noronha’s permaculture farm, and it has been his workplace, classroom, grocery store, and home since he relocated to Trinidad in 1998. Meaning “of the fish” in Swahili, Wa Samaki covers 30 acres in Freeport in central Trinidad.
Although he uses no fertilisers, herbicides, or pesticides, Rahaman-Noronha is able to make a living off the farm’s fruit, flower, lumber, and fish sales. His newest addition is a large aquaponics system, a closed loop food production system in which fish tanks and potted plants circulate water and sustain one another.
With his partner John Stollmeyer, Rahaman-Noronha works to spread awareness of permaculture across the Caribbean, home to nearly 40 million people who are particularly susceptible to climate change.
The pair consults Trinidadian businesses, teaches permaculture design courses (PDCs), and holds workshops everywhere from Puerto Rico to St. Lucia. “How are we going to create sustainable human culture?” Stollmeyer asks. “Discovering permaculture for me was a wake up call.”
Where environmentalism meets savvy economics
The need for conservation is in no small part a result of climate change, especially when the Hurricane Belt covers nearly all of the Caribbean.
Trinidad and Tobago continues to compound the issue as both a major exporter and consumer of fossil fuels. The country produced more than 119,000 barrels of oil per day in 2012 and 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that same year, all the while boasting the second highest rate of CO2emissions per capita in the world, more than twice that of the United States.
United Nations data dating back to 2005, the last time such statistics were compiled, indicates that industrialised agriculture accounts for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In this environment, Rahaman-Noronha’s goal is to become an incubator of conservation start-ups that cannot secure necessary bank loans. Currently, he houses beekeepers and a wildlife rescue center on the farm for minimal rent, and he hopes that list will grow.
One such entrepreneurial mind that passed through Wa Samaki was Berber van Beek, a native of Curaçao who recently moved home after years of wandering the world. Before returning to the Caribbean, she practiced permaculture across Europe and Australia, but when van Beek wanted to develop her skills in a tropical climate, she came to Rahaman-Noronha.
“He gave me a lot of freedom on his farm to make and create a design,” van Beek says, describing a garden of banana trees she planted at Wa Samaki.
In Curaçao, van Beek uses permaculture as more than simply a food source. She realises its social potential and is working to start after-school programmes for at-risk youth who can learn useful gardening skills and the responsibility and respect for nature that come with caring for their own gardens.
In addition, she is soon opening her first large-scale organic gardening class, closely resembling a PDC.
Such initiatives are urgently needed in Curaçao, which is facing a stagnant economy and is currently nursing a youth unemployment rate of 37 percent.
According to van Beek, shifting global climates and markets have major effects on her own island in which nearly everything must be imported. “If you go to the supermarket, look where your food is coming from. Is it coming from Venezuela or is it coming from the U.S. or is it coming from Europe?” she says. “People could be more aware of what to buy and what not to buy.”
The problem, experts say, is regional. According to the Food Export Association of the Midwest USA – a group of nonprofits focusing on agricultural issues – around 80 percent of food consumed in the Caribbean is imported.
The beauty and purpose of permaculture is that it is a system of solutions that can be practiced at any level to combat environmental issues.
“You can start in your backyard, so there’s no cost. You can implement certain parts of it in your apartment if you really need to,” Rahaman-Noronha explains. “If you have a porch with some sunlight, you can plant something there and start thinking about permaculture.”
Naturally, van Beek took his message to heart, keeping a perfectly groomed permaculture garden in her own tiny backyard, using dead leaves as fertiliser and recycled rain and shower-water to sustain the plants.
“Seeing is believing,” she says. It’s her own quiet mantra, spoken when she describes her approach to spreading permaculture, and vocalised when she needs the energy to keep pressing on and to convince others that this is the right path.
Rahaman-Noronha, too, has worked to convert non-believers. From schools who tour the wildlife center and his farm to the several thousand people who watched his TEDx talk online, he is adamant that he has traded in misconceptions for progress.
“I think [the reason] I don’t get challenged…is that I’m not just preaching permaculture,” he says. “I’m actually practicing it.”
© 2014 IPS North America
Permaculture Poised to Conquer the Caribbean | Common Dreams.
(This is a repost from the Democracy Now! site. You can see the original at the link below. Truthout listed this as a video interview on their site-I am trying to find a link to the video to post it too.
I believe we have the best President we could possibly have, under the circumstances but no matter how great a man Barack Obama himself may be- the circumstances I mentioned are indeed most dire for America and the human race as a whole.
Right now most of our planet is ruled by a fascist oligarchy with our governments-whether democracy, republic, kingdom, socialist or other type of state- as very limited puppet regimes to the true powers who we rarely ever see or hear accurate news about.
President Obama went into this knowing a good bit about that situation but perhaps not realizing the full extent. He called on us all to back him up and be personally involved in creating change the night he was first elected.
I do not know if we the people let him down by not participating enough or in great enough numbers to make a difference or if, in fact, the level of control was already too vast and entrenched to change as I am sure President Obama envisioned doing when he was first elected.
This SOTU is evidence to me that whatever the background reason, Barack Obama now knows that the power structure-invisible to most- that he hoped to change is beyond his ability to do so.
I still have hope that we WILL topple that corrupt structure but I see through the words and actions of a brilliant man who is in a position to be better informed than most about the reality of the situation, that the plainly visible tools and methods of democracy have failed so far to accomplish it.
Barack Obama is far too intelligent and well educated to believe that a monstrosity like the TPP is good for America or the world. His acceptance of it bespeaks his deeper understanding of the current power and control structure we live under far more than any personal good opinion of it.
If you pray, please pray for our President, our world and all living beings.
When the best efforts of wise, educated and passionate human beings are not enough to stop true evil we still have an ace up our sleeve in the fact that the Universe we live in is alive and aware.
Whether you call it Universe, God, Goddess, Great Spirit, Allah or any of a thousand other equally accurate names; we can pray and know that miracles far beyond our wildest dreams are always possible.
“A Silent Coup”: Jeremy Scahill & Bob Herbert on Corporate, Military Interests Shaping Obama’s SOTU
On issues from domestic inequality to foreign policy, President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union with a vow to take action on his own should Congress stonewall progress on his agenda. But will Obama’s policies go far enough? We host a roundtable with three guests: Jeremy Scahill, producer and writer of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield” and senior investigative reporter at First Look Media, which will launch in the coming months; Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow with Demos; and Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy at the United We Dream coalition.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Jeremy Scahill—his film,Dirty Wars, has just been nominated for an Oscar; Bob Herbert with us, former New York Times columnist, now with Demos; and Lorella Praeli with the United We Dream coalition. Nermeen?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We’re continuing our coverage of President Obama’s State of the Union address. During Tuesday’s speech, he announced an executive action to raise the minimum wage for some federal contract workers from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.
PRESIDENT BARACKOBAMA: In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour, because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.
Of course, to reach millions more, Congress does need to get on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. And Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. It’s easy to remember, 10-10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It does not involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Bob Herbert, can you respond to that, the significance of this raise for some federal workers?
BOB HERBERT: Sure. I think it’s symbolically significant. So, it’s not going to take effect until new contracts come up, so federal contract workers will have to be paid at least a minimum of $10.10 an hour. The reason I think it’s symbolically significant is because it keeps a spotlight on the issue of the minimum wage, on the issue of employment going forward.
You know, to Jeremy’s point about the State of the Union essentially being a propaganda speech, which is absolutely true, what you didn’t hear there was really what the state of the economy is for ordinary Americans, for working people in this country. You didn’t hear anything about poverty, for example. So, for years now, the American people have made it clear, in poll after poll and in other ways, that employment is their top priority. I mean, people need jobs. But neither party, presidents from either party and Congress, whether it’s in the control of the Republicans or the Democrats, have had a sustained, effective job creation program in this country. And the United States is never going to get out of its morass until it’s able to put people back to work.
We now have nearly 50 million people who are officially poor in the United States, according to federal guidelines. Another 50 million people are just a notch or two above the official poverty rate. That’s nearly a third of the entire population that’s poor or near poor. One out of every three black children in the United States is poor. If you just walk a few blocks from this studio, every day you will see enormous lines wrapped around the corner for soup kitchens and that sort of thing. And that’s the case in places across this country. None of that was addressed. And none of the initiatives that the president has offered, and nothing that the Republicans have offered in years, would begin to address this state of distress among American working people and among the poor.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Just to give us an idea, Bob Herbert, how many employees does the federal government have through contractors?
BOB HERBERT: Well, it’s interesting. It was actually Demos that—it was a Demos initiative that put the spotlight on this $10.10 initiative, because Demos was the first organization to point out that the federal government, through its contractors, employs nearly two million low-wage workers, which is more than Wal-Mart and McDonald’s combined. So, if you could get this initiative expanded to cover all of the workers who are contracted to work for the federal government, then you would help an enormous number of people.
AMY GOODMAN: Mention of unions? I saw Richard Trumka in the audience.
BOB HERBERT: You know, get me started on unions. One of the reasons American workers are in such a deep state of distress is because they have no clout in the workplace. They are not organized, and they are not represented, so they cannot fight for their own interests. Corporations are organized every which way from sundown, and they have tremendous amounts of money. They have a lot a political clout and that sort of thing.
Workers go to work. You know, it’s just one man or one woman, you know, against an employer in a terrible job market. So you’re afraid to even ask for a raise, even if you deserve a raise, because you think the employer is going to say to you, “Take a hike.” And then you go out there in this terrible job market, and there’s no jobs to be had. If workers were organized, then they would be able to have clout. You’d be able to bring pressure not just on employers, not just on corporations, but also on the federal government to get legislation passed that would be beneficial to workers.
And one of the most important things you could do is to just enforce the laws that are on the books that have to do with labor organizing. I mean, so, if you’re in an organization, a corporation, a plant, that sort of thing, where workers are not organized, do not belong to a labor union, they want to organize—the majority of the workers want to organize—the corporations fight you every step of the way. And they use a tremendous number—amount of unfair tactics. That’s illegal, but the federal government has not enforced the laws.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about international trade policy and how that relates. In his State of the Union, President Obama also sought fast-track authority to give lawmakers an up-or-down vote on the trade deals such as TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
PRESIDENT BARACKOBAMA: When 98 percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create even more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped “Made in the U.S.A.” Listen, China and Europe aren’t standing on the sidelines. And neither should we.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama in his fifth State of the Union address. We just returned from Japan, Bob Herbert. There, there’s a huge discussion about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Here, most people, if you asked them, they wouldn’t even know what it is.
BOB HERBERT: Well, one of the things that’s a problem in this country is because the economic situation has been so stagnant for most people for so long and because the government has been—the government in Washington has been so dysfunctional, that Americans have really tuned out. And also, I don’t think that the press has done a good job at all on trade agreements, if you go all the way back to NAFTA in the 1990s. So people essentially don’t even understand these agreements. But what they do understand is that they have not been helpful to the vast majority of workers over all these years. So…
JEREMY SCAHILL: Can I just make a comment?
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill.
JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean, you know, what Obama was doing there—in his last major address that he gave, he—at the United Nations General Assembly, he laid out this sort of forceful defense of American empire, and even went so far as to say that the U.S. will use its military might to continue to secure energy resources. In this speech, it was a pretty forceful defense of a neoliberal economic agenda. And, you know, what Bob is saying about corporations resonates on a foreign policy level, as well.
What is widely being considered to be the most moving part of last night was when this U.S. Army Ranger was addressed in the crowd and who was severely wounded and had done 10 tours. Think about that for a moment—10 tours in these war zones. You know, this young American spent his entire adult life in these combat zones. And, you know, the issue of how veterans are treated in this country is one thing, but at the end of the day, did he benefit from these wars? Does the average American benefit from the continuation of these wars? No. Who benefits? That’s the most important question we all have to ask. It’s corporations.
BOB HERBERT: Exactly.
JEREMY SCAHILL: War corporations, the Halliburtons of the world, the Boeings. John Kerry, yesterday it was announced, is giving these awards for corporate excellence around the world. He’s giving them to Citibank, to Apache, to Boeing, to Coca-Cola. And so you have this neoliberal economic agenda, which is sort of the hidden hand, in many ways, of the U.S. empire, and then you have this iron fist of U.S. militarism that is being sold to the American public, and increasingly to the world, as national security policy.
And so, you know, when I see that Army Ranger who’s wounded like that, the first thing that just occurs to me is: Who has benefited from all of this? When corporations control our political process in this country through a legalized form of corruption that’s called campaign finance, what does that say about the state of our democracy? In a way, there already has been a coup in this country, but it’s been a silent coup. And it reminds me of that famous line from the great movie The Usual Suspects. At the end of it, Kevin Spacey’s character says the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. In many ways, a coup has happened, and the brilliance of it is that it’s not sparking major uprisings because we’ve been pacified and taught to just accept this as how things work. We have two parties in this country, the minimum wage is going to be the minimum wage, and corporations are in control, and these wars are fought in our name, but without our consent.
BOB HERBERT: And the flipside of who benefits is the suffering that is so tremendous out there among the warriors who have been sent over to fight these wars since late 2001. And so, you just have hundreds of thousands of people who have—men and women, who have come back from the combat zones, who have terrible, disabling injuries, who are going to have to be cared for—we have an obligation to care for them—in many cases, for the rest of their lives. We have to pay, as a society, to care for these folks. You know, it’s probably—Joe Stiglitz has estimated that now these wars are probably going cost cumulatively $4 trillion or more. None of this has been really explored clearly or properly explained to the American public.
JEREMY SCAHILL: You know, just a small sort of side point on this, you know, when we talk about the U.S. withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, the conventional military, a story that very seldom gets attention is the connection between a paramilitarization of law enforcement inside of the United States and increasing use of what they call counterterrorism tactics onSWAT-style operations in the U.S. The military is donating a lot of its equipment to local police agencies and other so-called law enforcement agencies, and the communities that are most at risk here are communities of color and poor communities. Everything is about war—the war on drugs, the war on crime.
BOB HERBERT: Right.
JEREMY SCAHILL: And war requires some kind of a militarized response. And that’s what we’re seeing. This is deeply connected to the wars abroad, the wars at home, as well.
BOB HERBERT: And this is actually going into our public schools, where you have that type of militarized behavior going on actually in public schools. That’s how you get the school-to-prison pipeline that people are talking about.
AMY GOODMAN: On Afghanistan, President Obama said, “If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATOallies.” But the latest news says the Pentagon has proposed up to 10,000 troops remaining behind, Jeremy.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, and if you look at what sort of various senior anonymous military officials have been saying for several years now, they’ve known that the withdrawal is not really going to be a withdrawal. Yes, we’re going to see the Marines pull out. We’re going to have this thing where journalists can ride on the tanks, like they did out of Iraq. But at the end of the day, this is an Afghanization of a U.S. policy. So, what’s going to happen is that you’re going to have these advise-and-assist squads of highly trained U.S. special ops and CIApersonnel accompanying Afghan units, and they’re going to try to have the Afghans do the fighting and dying and killing on behalf of U.S. policy. But what I think should be of greater concern to the American public is that you are going to have these strike forces in place. It’s taken as conventional wisdom now that the U.S. is out of Iraq. Actually, the U.S. has a massive paramilitary presence inside of Iraq and is going to continue to have one inside of Afghanistan. So, these wars are going to continue on for at least another generation, albeit on a sort of covert, hidden-hand manner of doing it.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But what’s the justification, Jeremy, for keeping troops in Afghanistan?
JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean, there is no counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan anymore. I mean, no one wants to talk about this, because you’re going to be accused of being sympathetic to the Taliban. The Taliban is not a terrorist organization with global aspirations. The Taliban has a constituency, has a greater constituency than the U.S., arguably than Hamid Karzai, who the U.S. recognizes as the president. And I think the Taliban is a morally reprehensible group of individuals, but they do have indigenous support. And the reason that they’re fighting right now is because the U.S. and NATO are in their country. And so, to sort of imply that what we’re doing there is countering terrorists, when in the first months of the Obama administration his own national security adviser said there are less than a hundred al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, we should be asking that question that John Kerry asked in 1971: Who wants to be the last to die for this failed war? What do they tell the families of the soldiers who die from here until they pull out the conventional military?
AMY GOODMAN: Now, the significance of that, for people who don’t remember, John Kerry, who is the secretary of state and formerly senator, was—fought in Vietnam, and when he came home, he was strongly opposed to the war in Vietnam, and he testified before Congress asking that question.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, I’d love to see 1971 John Kerry questioning, you know, 2014 John Kerry at a hearing about all these policies that he’s having to sell as secretary of state around the world.
By Shepard Ambellas
In what will soon be considered as the Holy Grail of extraterrestrial research, the Mexican government has released ancient documents proving the existence of E.T.’s once and for all.
CALAKMUL, MEXICO (INTELLIHUB) — Newly released Mayan documents, i.e. artifacts, dating back at least 1300-years reveal that the human race is not alone and highly advanced technologies including space travel have likely existed for quite some time.
Not only does this documentation released by the Mexican government show the existence of an explorer race, it may also reveal the roots of mankind.
Some consider the government’s presentation of the information to be a major step forward for humanity as the truth is finally being slowly let out. Hopefully this will prompt other governments around the world to be more forthcoming with such information, turning the tide in the UFO and extraterrestrial research community for good.
Sundance winner Juan Carlos Rulfo’s
“Mexico will release codices, artifacts and significant documents with evidence of Mayan and extraterrestrial contact, and all of their information will be corroborated by archaeologists,” he said. “The Mexican government is not making this statement on their own – everything we say, we’re going to back it up.”
Caballeros himself was conspicuous by his absence from the statement released by Julia-Levy. So far, the minister of tourism for the Mexican state of Campeche, Luis Augusto García Rosado, appears to be the highest-ranking government official to go on record confirming the discovery of extraterrestrial life, but he’s not holding back.
In a statement, Rosado spoke of contact “between the Mayans and extraterrestrials, supported by translations of certain codices, which the government has kept secure in underground vaults for some time”. In a telephone conversation with the Wrap, he also spoke of “landing pads in the jungle that are 3,000 years old”.
These secrets have been said to be “protected” by the mexican government for as long as 80-years.
Thank you Laura! I appreciate seeing not only your experiences but also the various needs and steps to meeting them laid out so clearly.
I have been involved with similar things, including Transition, but a huge challenge-how to participate in and contribute to these community activities when I am unable to physically get to my community?
I know how to grow food, I know how to do lots of things-and even came up with ideas and helped get many things started over the years but every time, after the start, I myself did not get to participate or interact with most of them.
Unlike most disabled people I’ve met I am not the chatty Cathy, the “cheerful cripple” that everyone knows.
Even after decades of activism and involvement in my local community very few people even know who I am and exactly none of them interact with or visit me.
I’m not a jerk-I’m just an Asperger so-no matter how good my intentions I seem to be either invisible, off putting or just not easy for most to relate to or connect with.
For a long time I thought it’s just me so it really doesn’t matter,but I’ve started to notice that the population of both physically and mentally/emotionally disabled people and those who are not disabled but simply very introverted is not exactly small.
So despite my interest, involvement and promotion of the many good ideas listed in your post and others-if the free fish is cancelled I am extremely likely to starve.
I used to think well that’s Darwin for ya-time to become fertilizer for more functional creatures!
But now that I see the situation is more common and not just a personal failing I can’t recommend that as a standard solution:-)
I know that in traditional cultures people like me are not forgotten or left behind but are integrated usually thru family connections into the larger community.
But here in St Petersburg the number of homeless mentally ill and otherwise disabled folks without family to help them is staggering.
If we truly cannot expect to rely on government ( tho I still hold hope for clearing corruption and returning government to being the structure of community it was meant to be in a democracy) then we have to find ways for people like me to be part of it.
I’ve wracked my brains and used all sorts of tools to try and resolve this aspect for myself over the last 20 years without significant success. I hope that there is a more compassionate solution than eugenics by default and I just can’t see it for whatever reason.
I’m not concerned for me because for me death is just a door not a fear but I feel that even if that were true of everyone like me abandoning the misfit toys won’t be very healthy for the rest of Santa’s elves either.
please excuse if this is not worded well everyone but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and this wonderful post of good stuff that is happening, problems that are being solved made me want to bring this one out for a chance at many hands making light work.
But I’m rotten ill and on the phone I can’t read over what I wrote to determine if it is Asperger-irritating-neurotypicals-speak or not ( sometimes I can’t tell even when I can read it over but I try!:-/
8 things Harry Potter fans are doing to fight real-life dark forces
If Harry Potter were a real person, he’d fight child labor, voter suppression, and poverty. Here are several ways Harry’s fans have taken his values from the books and movies into the real world.
By Katrina Rabeler, YES! Magazine / December 4, 2013
Actress Emma Watson (center) poses with actors Rupert Grint (left) and Daniel Radcliffe (right) at the world premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” in London in 2011. Harry Potter fans have joined together to carry Harry Potter’s fight against injustices into the real world.
Dylan Martinez/Reuters/FileAndrew Slack finally read the “Harry Potter” series when he gave in to pressure from his students who were obsessed with Harry, the teenage wizard who uses magic, courage, and wit to confront dark forces and save the world.
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Though the plot is fantastical, Slack, like millions before him, couldn’t stop talking about the books. But then he realized that if Harry Potter were a real person, he wouldn’t just stand around talking about himself. Harry Potter, Slack said, would “fight injustice in our world the way he fought injustice in his.”
That’s when Slack had the idea to mobilize Harry Potter fans around real-world problems—and it was easy for Slack to find parallels between the fictional stories and real-life issues.
RECOMMENDED: Harry Potter: 4 of the most famous parodies
In the Harry Potter series, author J.K. Rowling, who worked at Amnesty International prior to writing the books, wrote about inequality and even ethnic cleansing between pure-blood, half-blood, and muggle-born wizards, as well as non-magical people; werewolves forced to conceal their true identities from a culture that shames them; house elves that are enslaved and inherited down through generations; prisoners tortured in Azkaban, the wizard prison; and the use of consolidated media to control public opinion.
Most of all, says Slack, Rowling created a world that made “fun of normalcy as an aspiration” and believed that “the weapon we have is love.”
Just as Hermione Granger started the activist Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare (SPEW) to try to end the slavery of house elves and Harry started Dumbledore’s Army to fight Lord Voldemort, Slack started the Harry Potter Alliance—a movement of Harry Potter fans turning their deep love of the stories into real-world action in order to “fight injustice in our world.”
Today, the HPA has 190 chapters in 35 U.S. states and eight countries and participation in the group spans all ages.
Slack and the HPA believe in the power of story to change the world and they believe that activism can be fun and lighthearted, even when the societal issues they’re confronting are serious. Slack calls this method of making the world a better place through popular culture, “cultural acupuncture.”
“Imagine people working to end global warming, racism, and genocide as energetically as they flock to movies,” wrote Slack for the Huffington Post. “Imagine them walking out of “Avatar” with an organization that says, ‘Here’s how we can band together to protect Pandora by fighting the “Sky People” in the Coal Industry.'”
Here are eight issues the HPA has already taken on:
1. Labor rights
The Harry Potter Alliance took off when Slack and his friend Seth Soulstein, from their traveling comedy group, the Late Night Players, joined with the group Walmart Watch and created “Harry Potter and the Dark Lord Waldemart” YouTube videos.
The featured main character is a cloaked figure with a Walmart smiley face for a head, the evil Waldemart. The
Just as Lord Voldemort treats his servants poorly (for example, SPOILER ALERT!, he chops off Wormtail’s hand and murders Professor Snape), Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, treats its workers unfairly. 2. Fascism and genocide
The group rose in popularity when Slack and Soulstein combined efforts with Harry and the Potters, a rock band based on the books. Their first move was to mobilize already existing Harry Potter fan groups around ending genocide in Darfur.
This theme shows up in the books when, controlled by Voldemort and his Deatheaters, the Ministry of Magic establishes a policy of ethnic cleansing, believing people with impure or non-wizard blood have no worth.
The group worked with Sifa Nsengimana, aRwandan human rights activist. With her help, in addition to creating a podcast, raising awareness, and sending letters to end genocide, the group established a library in Rwanda for children who were orphaned because of the genocide.
3. Disaster relief
With the help of the Wizard Rock community, HPA raised more than $123,000 in two weeks for Partners In Health following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. With this money, PIH was able to fly five planes full of emergency medical supplies to Haiti. Four of the planes had Harry Potter names—Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Dumbledore—while the fifth was named DFTBA (Don’t Forget to Be Awesome) in honor of Nerdfighters, a group that joined with the HPA on the campaign.
The Harry Potter series largely takes place at Hogwarts, the school of witchcraft and wizardry. In the books, education plays a central role and the lead heroine is Hermione Granger, a young witch who demonstrates the role of books and education in fighting injustice and empowering people.
The Alliance has donated more than 120,000 books to kids in Rwanda, the Mississippi Delta, and New York City through its “Accio Books” campaign. It also helped build libraries at the New Beginnings Charter School in Brooklyn, N.Y., and in community centers across the Mississippi Delta.
5. Modern-day slavery and child labor
Dobby the house elf, one of the series’ most beloved characters, is a slave who has been passed down through generations in the Malfoy family. When Harry tricks Lucius Malfoy, the family patriarch, into freeing Dobby, Harry earns the elf’s undying loyalty. Dobby, as a free elf, achieves self-realization.
And Harry Potter fans have made the connection between house elf slavery and modern-day slavery.
HPA is currently pressuring Warner Brothers, which sells Harry Potter chocolate frogs (a common sweet in the books), to prove there is no child slavery in their cocoa supply chain. The Alliance even sells their own version of chocolate frogs made from fair-trade chocolate.
6. Voter registration
The Harry Potter books demonstrate the importance of civic participation by highlighting the government’s role and its potential to overreach. More often than not, Harry Potter and his friends are at odds with the Ministry of Magic.
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The HPA has used this connection in their “Wizard Rock the Vote” campaign. At 70 Wizard Rock shows across the nation, HPA volunteers walked around with clipboards registering more than 1,100 Harry Potter fans to vote.7. Immigration and marriage equality
In the Harry Potter series, many “people have to live in the closet for simply being who they are,” explains Slack. “Lupin has to live in the closet for his identity as a werewolf, Hagrid has to live in the closet for his identity as a half-giant, and Harry Potter is forced to live in the closet for his identity as a wizard. We all live in closets for multiple reasons. No one should have to, including for their immigration status or for their sexual or gender orientation.” That’s why the HPA raised more than $94,800 for equality initiatives.
In the 2012 election, club members helped in phone banks to add 900 calls to the Maryland DREAM Act to grant an in-state tuition discount to undocumented college students and to add support of marriage equality in Maine. In 2011 they made 6,200 phone calls and processed 214 digital postcards in support of marriage equality in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The HPA also currently has a “Superman Is an Immigrant” campaign to support immigrant rights.
8. Structural poverty
The HPA is branching out into other books too. The “Hunger is Not a Game” campaign joined with Oxfam and “The Hunger Games” fandom to help end hunger. Their newest campaign is “The Odds Are In Our Favor” to raise awareness about inequality.
• Katrina Rabeler wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Katrina is a freelance reporter and writer.
• This story originally appeared at YES! Magazine.
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While the Finnish economy continued to decline with weak domestic demand, fragile exports and increasing unemployment rate, “Finnish creativity has shown its strength,” said Katainen.
“New beginnings of success, for example growth in the games industry, small companies generating significant new employment, and major foreign investments in data canters are arising to replace jobs that are lost.”
Facing the challenges of a more difficult economic situation and continuously aging population, Katainen pointed out Finland must therefore have the courage to reform the society “on our own terms.”
“We will not manage this if we hang on to out-dated structures or drift involuntarily on the currents of the global economy,” he stressed.
Concerning the approach of the reforms, the prime minister proposed a “bottom to top” concept, contrary to the traditional “top to bottom” way of governance in Finland.
“Finns are increasingly embracing individual solutions and freedom of choice. We no longer consider it right that someone above us makes key life choices on our behalf. Instead of patronage, we want to be the decision-makers of our own lives when we have the capacity to be so,” said Katainen.
“No single common dream of a nation exists; there are as many dreams as there are people.” He emphasized that decision-makers must adapt to it and search for paths by which people’s individual wishes, needs and actions can also be channeled for “the good of all of Finland.”
Thank you for posting this, and for your earlier info on the same topic. I attempted to support INMATES from a distance as soon as I heard of it because I thought it WAS supporting the anti fracking and sovereign land defenders.
I am disappointed but grateful to lose my illusions. I made myself rather ill.putting on a solidarity action in my downtown which is a tourist area when INM started. It turned out to be futile as no one showed up and the few tourists who actually spoke with me after seeing my banner had little idea or interest in what I was telling them. One girl.in a wheelchair (who should have stayed in bed) was even less use than a silly flash mob:-/
But now at least I know what I should have figured out then-social.media is a great tool and support for well.designed activism. It can be a useful part of smart strategy but hype is hype no matter what topic or group it is related to:-(
I am glad to see people questioning this even if only out of fear. I have no idea about address gathering or if Cobra and company are either knowingly or unknowingly working for the cabal or anyone else. Everyone I have read posting support for Cobra’s plans has been sincere and to my perspective caring and dedicated lightworkers.
But, my higher self has given me unmistakeable resistance to this poll, the Event, the earlier plan to overthrow the US govt and hang my President by Drake and friends and in fact every single instance of **giving my power and responsibility to others**.
Why do we who know ourselves to be creators, who recognize that we were born in this time and place in order to ascend-to fully incarnate our higher selves with all our power and ability into these human forms in order to heal the Earth and end tyranny-why would we choose then to go awol?
To dump our mission, to stay slaves or perpetual children by assigning OUR work to some mysterious group whether terrestrial seditionists or ET “Resistance”??
It is of course easier to allow others both the power and the work-all adolescents to some extent try to do this and our current stage of spiritual growth could well compare to adolescence-but it is a dead end is it not?
Why do we feel so helpless?
Why do we assign our power to create change to a proxy who may or may not truly represent our intentions?
I have spent over 4 decades fighting the cabal both directly and indirectly, on the physical and the other levels.
Why should I now concede my own quest and self determination to what could resemble Orwell’s Animal Farm where some Resistors are MORE EQUAL than others?
When we the people of Earth stop trying to duck our responsibility and give our power away to one master or another THEN we will no longer be slaves no matter what else is going on.
Read Starhawk’s book The Fifth Sacred Thing for a good illustration of what I am talking about. Or Neo in The Matrix for a more sensational illustration.
A small group concentrated collectively and made it rain in the Sahara at a specific place and time-what do you think we could do with a larger group? Or even a few fully ascended individuals?
You don’t have to vote or give away your power and personal agency to ANY group or individual whether governments, Resistance groups or guru leaders.
Look up Horizontalism, watch Velcro Ripper’s Occupy Love.on youtube.
Wake up to who you really are and you will never fall for another hierarchy based hard sell demanding YOUR power and agency in return for “freeing” you from enslavement.
No one can free you but you.
And you really really CAN’T tear down the master’s house using the master’s tools; if you are enslaved by hierarchy and giving your power to others who “save you” “protect you from the terrorists” or “take out the cabal for you”, you are still enslaved by hierarchy and giving your power away.
Watch V for Vendetta too-V merely inspires the people. The people take back their power and act on their own-as we too must if we ever hope to be free.
EDIT- I made the following comment in response to a friend who said questioning the petition was negative, that we need to believe. I feel it goes with/continues my thoughts in this post so I am copying it below.
I believe. I just believe in US not in more empty promises from people who whether they realize it or not are working to keep us helpless and enslaved.
Many days I can’t even wash or feed myself. Most days I spend 98% of the day unable to get out of bed or stand for more than a few minutes.
If anyone would be overjoyed by seeing the changes take place instantly like in a movie or on tv-brought to us effortlessly by helpful angels, aliens or elves- it would be me.
I consistently deeply feel others suffering and work to alleviate all of it that I can but I can’t ignore my higher self, my intuition or my common sense and observations.
When people are being led on into distractions designed to prevent the very changes they so deeply desire, how can anyone with integrity stay silent?
**WE**are the golden age, the return of Christ and the answer to a thousand years of human prayers.
That is what lightworker means if it means anything at all.
We are the kindling that lights the fire of humanity’s collective spirit!
We ascend thru our own work on ourselves and each light that flares in the darkness sparks more to ignite.
It is very like a nuclear reaction-once you get fission in a few particles it spreads as the first few trigger/ignite the next and on out wave after wave.
The more of us light up (ascend, attain a certain level of enlightenment) the FASTER the process will go.
The more of us neglect our inner work to chase pretty lights and distractions designed to keep us off course, the slower the process goes.
Telling my gut level truth is not being negative, its being positive that we CAN do it.
Not some mysterious saviors that swoop in as ‘deux ex machina’ to save the day, but us, humanity, lightworkers, starseeds-everyone.
I have no idea how I can do it useless as I now appear to be, but I know I will.
I feel the truth like a flame inside me that cannot be extinguished.
I know we can and we are.
Even tho I still get frustrated at what I perceive as my own snail like slow progress, I know now what we are doing.
The key is not to get the golden age so we can enjoy it- the key is for us to enjoy it now.
To fall in love with our lives-faults, flaws, suffering and all; to fall in love with the Earth, our fellow humans and all of nature, every living being.
To light ourselves up with love and gratitude that will flow out from us, wave after wave like fission only not dirty or dangerous:-)
I know its hard-its hard for me too but I know I/we can ask for help and get it every moment.
We are the pillars of light Blossom was promised. We are the Resistance. We are the golden age-in seed form.
Its time to turn our energy inwards, reach our roots deep into Mother Gaia-Sophia and SPROUT!;-)
#OccupyVirtually to #DodgeRadsNow
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