a peek at monsanto's evils.

I don’t have a problem with GMOs, but I do have a problem with Monsanto.

First I heard about the multinational agricultural biotech firm was in high school, when my dad told me about how they’d sue farmers for having crops that contain traces of their patented plant genes—including threatening their neighbors, for simply having their farm nearby a farmer who used Monsanto seeds, the genetic traits of which could get transmitted through pollen that floated or carried over to them by bees. I just did a quick search to find out about their other evil doings, and found these:

  • They’ve continued to sue farmers for having “improperly reused their patented seeds.” Yes, they have invested millions into their R&D for their products, but it’s perverse for them to go after farmers for reusing seeds when that’s what farmers have done for literally thousands of years. Farmers are under ever-increasing pressure to yield more and more crops (esp. corn and soy beans), and making these farmers dependent on Monsanto’s products to remain competitive seems dangerous and unsustainable..

Sooo on Saturday, I ended up going to the March Against Monsanto in San Francisco. Food safety and anti-pesticide activism isn’t one of my fights, but I deeply respect those who’ve taken up the cause. It also happened that one of the dances that my political-dance-flash-mob does, Toxic, fit perfectly with the demo’s message. On some level, I felt bad that I suddenly showed up to perform (which as I said in an earlier post, feels more like activism-cheerleading than anything else) and join their protest. But I think it’s actually okay to be peripherally involved in a cause like this, especially if you’re already focused on a different one.

evilcorn

There’s only so much anger one can muster in a week. My day job is to wrangle with a massive trade agreement that could obligate its signatory countries to various bad awful digital regulations, and really threatens to upend public interest policies from across the board. It’s already been a struggle for me to try and stay positive and focused on the things that we can do to stop the TPP, so I have to be okay with letting others lead and fight in those trenches to do what they can on issues I also care about.

Anyways, I’ll just end this post with this awesome video on Youtube, “Lobbyist Claims Monsanto’s Roundup Is Safe To Drink, Freaks Out When Offered A Glass.

And a photo of me in a gas mask, which was really fun dancing to Britney Spears with. 🙂

mai_gasmask

film: encounters at the end of the world

iceburg_herzog

I watched Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World this week, a documentary that beautifully captures the indifferent expanse of Antarctica as it peers into the lives of those who’ve somehow ended up there. At times the film was breathtaking, suspenseful, absurd, and meditative. Through intimate human moments that take place in this gorgeous icy frontier, Herzog shows you some of the consequential/inconsequential collisions between humans and “nature”. He guides you through this in his signature narration, delivered with his melodic German accent.

For real though, it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a while that *doesn’t* make me want to punch a wall. And it’s on Netflix.

celebrating the Everett Program

As an undergrad at UC Santa Cruz, I spent all four years with a student organization and academic program called the Global Information Internship Program (GIIP), now called the Everett Program. It teaches undergrads how to become “social justice entrepreneurs”, by training them in practical tech skills, as well as in professional advocacy, such as doing needs analyses, project management, grant writing, and other tools to execute an internship with a non-profit.

About 17 years after it began, it’s now a Major and Minor study under the UCSC Sociology department and it get a yearly contribution of 0.33% of the student body’s combined tuition (a couple $10,000’s per year) following a student initiative that was a passed by vote. It then received an endowment that supports the staffing and management of the program, establishing a new chair for the program—the Dorothy E. Everett Chair, named after a woman who spent years dedicated to the cause of free, universal higher education in the state of California.

So this past weekend we celebrated the retirement of the incredible sociology professor, and my mentor, Paul Lubeck, who built this program, and the launch of the new Chair of the Everett Program, Chris Benner. It was really exciting to see how much the program has grown and to think about new ways it will continue to expand.

The Everett Program is what converted me from an unfocused student with broad, but deep discontent about the world, into a practical, effective advocate and activist. It changed my life most profoundly because it was a program that was run *by* undergraduate students *for* undergraduate students. It taught us how to take ourselves as activists seriously in a way that most of us never knew how.

So now, as a big side project to my work at EFF, I’ve founded an alumni foundation to connect all the incredible people who’ve gone through this program together. Between the more than 100 of us, we have resources, experiences, and networks that can be harnessed and shared to make us all more involved in pragmatic change-making.