Friday, July 21, 2006

Organic news

I don't usually get to read much of what is printed in the papers (when we do buy the papers), but there has been some interesting 'organic news' this last week or so.

I was delighted to read one journalist's view on Why we should buy organic milk. Jane Wheatley says 'It makes me furious to see two litres selling for the “bargain” price of 65p in my local corner shop.'

'It’s not a bargain at all; it comes at a terrible cost to farmers and to the cows that are endlessly bred, pumped, primed and medicated for higher yields in an effort to reduce the gap between the price the farmer gets for his milk — around 18p a litre — and what it costs to produce it — about 21p. '

We have been very blessed in being able to have bottled organic milk delivered to us once a week. Sadly our fridge can only take so many standing bottles and we need to supplement these most weeks with store-bought organic milk. But we do buy it from the supermarket chain that this report highlights as paying farmers a premium compared to other middle-men.

Another item of interest which I read in the papers but could not find online, but has since been reproduced here is about how ethical food stores are growing on shoppers. Clearly there is a growing interest in 'ethical consumerism' and someone in America (John Mackey) has capitalized on it, suggesting that there is no real contradiction between profits and ethics. His Whole Foods chain is about to open a store in Kensington.

I am always a bit wary of big players in the 'ethical' sector and I shall have to watch this closely. It will be tragic if such stores (with their fiscal muscle and therefore buying power) were to edge out smaller stores which have first opened up the 'ethical market'. On the other hand, such big players with their big marketing budgets can do much to further the cause of smaller ethical stores. We shall see.

What is exceptionally good news for me is that this report also suggests that 'the ethical shopping trend is growing so fast that soon it will apply as much to toothpaste, soap and tea towels as it does to organic milk, free-range eggs and chicken and fair trade coffee and chocolate'. If you have -- like me -- worked on the factory floor (in not one, but two garment factories), any progress towards the ethical and fair trade route as the only acceptable standard is a welcome change.

Finally, there is more good news about Indian farmers who go back to basics. Farmer suicide in India is common because small-hold farmers borrow money to buy seed, and if this is GM seed, they end up having to borrow even more money to buy fertilizers and pesticides. The only people who profit are the big international GM seed producers and the middle-men who act as traders and money-lenders.

When the harvests fail, as they often do, farmers take their own lives.

This report is another bit of evidence to support the advantages of returning to organic agriculture where farmers can make use of local knowledge and local biodiversity to control pests and fertilize the ground without the added eco-burden of long-distance transport.

But organic agriculture is only profitable if there IS a demand for organic produce.

We, as consumers, have a choice.

Back to Organic-Ally.

Friday, July 07, 2006

My son ...

Yesterday was Speech Day at son's school. Son was joyous that he had won -- second year running -- the 'Attainment Prize' for his Form.

Husband and I went in a bit later than most other parents although we were not late. The church where this took place was quite full. We were sitting second row from the back.

The Headmaster came round and said, 'Like your hat,' to which I politely muttered 'Thanks'.

I think he was just checking my presence as he called me up with a few other ladies to accept bouquets for the work we do for the school community. (I organize fund-raising projects.)

It was an embarrassing walk right from the back of the church to the very front. I was thinking, 'Hmm, the last time I did this was at my wedding!'

Later on, husband quizzed son, 'Why is it that you've got a prize, and mum has got a 'prize' but I haven't got a prize?'

Son, without hesitation, 'Of course you've got a prize. You've got a prize way before me.'

Husband looking a bit puzzled: 'What do you mean?'

Son: 'You've got your prize. You've got your wife of course,' giving me a sideway glance.

Am I allowed to be honest here? I was totally gobsmacked. How does a six-year-old come up with something like that?

Just to set the record straight, I do not actually fall into the 'trophy wife' category.

This morning he told me, 'Getting a wife is like getting a prize to me.'


Back to Organic-Ally.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Illegals against illegals

I was just entering the shopping precinct when I realised that a couple of guys ahead of me were fighting, with two appearing in support. People stopped to stare, but only one -- the guy in an ill-fitting suit who had earlier crossed a pedestrian crossing with me -- went forward, held out his hand and told them calmly and firmly to 'break it up'.

He appeared to be so casual, so cool, as if he had broken up many fights before. I guess at six-foot-something he was not in awe of the two smaller men fighting. One was a dark-haired Chinese and the other a very blond younger man.

It looked like things had quietened down as I walked on. I saw a couple of security guards for the shopping centre outside which this was taking place and told them. Obviously as the fight was 'outside' the building itself, it was not really their responsibility. Nevertheless they went to investigate.

I walked on a bit, stopped, turned and had a look. The guys were at each other again. I decided that it was time to put my mobile phone to use. Called 999.

Eventually (I had a choice of fire or ambulance) put to the police after my mobile number had been announced. Gave them a location, but they seemed rather confused as to where I was.

I kept going: It's two Chinese men and two white men. I'm not sure if it's broken up, O, they are fighting again.

Police Officer: Is any one injured?

By this time one of the men, a Chinese, was standing not ten feet from me. He was wiping blood from his face.

Me: One is wiping his face. He is bleeding a little.

PO: Is he on the floor?

Me: He's standing.

PO: Do you think you need police presence?

Me: I don't know. Wait, let me find out.

I walked over to the security guards who were now standing by the injured men. I asked one if they needed the police.

'Don't know. Ask him,' he pointed at the injured man.

So I turned and asked, 'Do you need the police?'

No answer.

Me: Ni xu yao jing cha ma? [Do you need the police?]

Man with blood on his face: Mei yong le, ta yi jing pao diao le. [It's useless. He has already run away.]

Me: Bu xu yao jing cha? [No need for the police?]

Man's wife: Mei yong le, yi jing pao diao le. [It's useless now. Already run away.]

Me: Dao di shen me(r) shi? [What actually happened?]

Man: Ta tou le wo de yan jing yi ci, jai hui lai tou. [He has stolen spectacles (shades) from me before, and he came back to steal again.]

Me: Ni de yan jing? Ni mai de yan jing? [Your spectacles? The ones that you are selling?]

Man: Dui. [Correct.]

Me: Ni xian jai hai xu yao jing cha ma? [Do you still want the police?]

Man: Ta yi jing pao diao le. Mei yong le. [He has run away. No use.]

So I went back to the police officer on the phone: Chinese-speaking. Apparently the other man has run away. He had stolen some spectacles being sold by this man. It's all illegal any way. I don't know what you can do about it. This is happening all the time. Perhaps you need more policing here.

PO: We'll take your advice into consideration.

Me: Sorry to take up your time.

PO: That's OK. Thank you.

I do not know what I was most amazed by: that a man actually tried to break up a fight all by himself, that I managed to keep so calm, that the police officer was so patient and focused (if a bit confused), that I just switched between languages without thinking, that though the Chinese man was speaking a strange dialect with his wife, we could all communicate in the 'common Chinese language', or that this is possibly another scenario of illegals taking advantage of other illegals.

Of course one of those white men who allegedly stole those shades might be fully legal British subjects. (But this area of London is crawling with Eastern European young men who seem to spend all their time drinking expensive coffee at the coffee bars. Shop signs are now in Polish and Russian.)

It may also be that this Chinese man (who appeared to have his wife, mother and child in tow) is fully legal in the country, but was still hawking illegally. The former knows that the latter will not report the theft to the police. So he comes back again and again to steal. Man gets fed up. Man tries to reason with other man, but gets beaten up instead.

What can I do? First of all, is it my problem? No, at one level, because I could walk away and let six-foot-something men sort these fights out.

On another level, yes, because I cannot stand people bullying others.

Migrants bullying other migrants is bullying. Ministers not listening to what the people want being done are also bullying, because they are in a position of power to do something if only there is political will to do so, us the people by ourselves are not, but we have to live by the consequences of their inaction.

A fight here and a fight there and soon the neighbourhood will descend into a no-go area. I am not going to be bullied into this sitation, or am I?

The truth is our local MP has recently been sacked for his incompetence as a junior minister at the Home Office. Illegal migrants, often controlled by gangmasters, are harrassing shoppers in his very own constituency. Does he care? Perhaps. But not enough, obviously.

I am planning to complain formally to this MP soon, and I am going to contact a journalism student from China who used to live with us to see if it's worth her broadcasting station doing a story about the Chinese illegals here.

Back to Organic-Ally.