counter-culture

what is counter-culture? counter-culture is a think tank and aggregate effort to promote dissenting and/or deviating thought. it is a medium to examine varying perspectives and issues within culture, art, aesthetics, history, philosophy, politics, economics, psychology, and environment. this is an interminable struggle against the forces of ignorance, disillusionment, exploitation, misrepresentation, and propaganda. take whatever parcels knowledge, wisdom, and compassion you can derive, and go forth sharing it with all others; to oblivion, and beyond.

-born in the Bay Area, California,
-living in Edinburgh, Scotland.

"it is easier and less costly to change the way people think about reality than it is to change reality" -Morris Wolfe

"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion" -Albert Camus

Regards,
-Christopher


Filed in: cnn travel tourism globalism neocolonialism neoimperialism environment thailand bolivia adventure destinations news gringo trails documentary pegi vail anthropology knowledge awareness

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Gringo Trails: Is tourism destroying the world?

"CNN: Is there a right or wrong way to travel?

PV: Look, if you’re just going to Koh Pha Ngan for the full moon party, to cross it off your bucket list, then that’s the wrong reason to travel.

You could have a party at home — you’re just using the place as a backdrop.

And, yes, you might be bringing money into a town when you travel there but the relationship with local people has to be managed — they need to be at the planning table.

CNN: What are some tips on traveling responsibly?

Pegi Vail: First, no matter what your budget, it costs nothing to research your destination, to find out more about the environment and the culture.

I would read local writers who’ve written about their own culture — or at the very least your guidebook’s history section.

Learn about the dos and don’ts.

If someone says, “Don’t go naked on the beach,” then don’t go naked on the beach!”


Filed in: quinoa food market food prices bolivia peru south america food matters health diet the guardian vegetarian vegetarianism veganism vegan grains crops agriculture politics economics times new york times slate

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It’s OK To Eat Quinoa

Don’t buy the media’s hand-wringing about Bolivians who can’t afford quinoa. The real effects of Western demand are complicated.

The idea that worldwide demand for quinoa is causing undue harm where it's produced is an oversimplification at best Photograph courtesy Alter Eco.

Many quinoa-lovers have hit the existential skids recently, thanks to a story in theGuardian about the supposedly negative effects of buying imported quinoa.

"The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it," writes journalist Joanna Blythman.

This was one of several stories published in the last few years by the likes of NPR, theAssociated Press, and the New York Times that draw attention to the negative aspects of the boom in world demand for quinoa. Some, like the Guardian, went to the extreme of guilt-tripping readers against buying it.

But the idea that worldwide demand for quinoa is causing undue harm where it’s produced is an oversimplification at best. At worst, discouraging demand for quinoa could end up hurting producers rather than helping them.

Most of the world’s quinoa is grown on the altiplano, a vast, cold, windswept, and barren 14,000-foot Andean plateau spanning parts of Peru and Bolivia. Quinoa is one of the few things that grow there, and its high price means more economic opportunities for the farmers in one of the poorest parts of South America.

An analysis by Emma Banks for the Andean Information Network responds to many of these quinoa questions with a nuance largely absent from the press reports. “The impact of rising food prices is complex and encompasses food security and sovereignty debates,” Banks writes. Food security means having enough to eat, while food sovereignty means having a voice in the food system. These are affected differently in different places by increasing prices. But some generalizations can be made. As Banks writes:

Quinoa fetches a guaranteed high price affording farmers economic stability. This economic power has also translated into political power though producers’ associations and cooperatives.  Since the 1970’s, these organizations have worked toward greater producer control of the market, spurring other political actions such as blockades and protests for greater economic and environmental rights in quinoa-growing regions.

Relevant to the food security discussion, though absent in all of the recent quinoa press coverage, is the fact that, as Banks notes, “Bolivian government nutrition programs have begun to incorporate quinoa into school breakfast and new mothers’ subsidies.” Similar programs are underway in Peru, New York Times reporter Andrea Zarate told me by phone from Lima.

Edouard Rollet is co-founder of the fair-trade import company Alter Eco, which deals in Bolivian quinoa. His company works with 1,500 families in about 200 Bolivian villages. “I’ve been going to the altiplano once or twice a year since 2004,” Rollet told me by phone. “The farmers are still eating quinoa.” He said that over the years he’s watched how the extra income from rising prices has allowed the families he works with to diversify their diets dramatically, adding foods like fresh vegetables.  

Of course, not all quinoa growers are fortunate enough to sell their product to fair-trade organizations, and many receive less for their product. Regardless of the price, Rollet says, an average small farmer with 2 or 3 hectares to work will set aside roughly 1/10 of his harvest for personal use, and sell the rest. It’s hard to see how rising prices could be considered anything but good for these people.


Filed in: quinoa vegetarianism veganism health food diets agriculture global food market globalization eating bolivia south america western diets the guardian food alternatives health-food

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Quinoa's Dark Secret

Foreign demand, soil erosion drive up the crop’s price and threaten its future—and the future of those who grow it.

As health-food fads go, quinoa is so hot right now, to quote the movieZoolander.

Health food lovers—especially vegans and vegetarians—go nuts for the South American grain-like seed. And with good reason: Quinoa is one of the most nutrient-dense foodson the planet, packed with dietary fiber, vitamins E and B2 and iron, and low in fat. It might be the closest thing we have to a “perfect food.”

Which made a story about quinoa and those who grow it, printed earlier this month in The Guardian, unpalatable for many. Global demand (driven mostly by Western countries) has reached such highs that Bolivia, the largest producer of quinoa, now exports nearly all of the staple crop. The increasingly globalized market has driven the domestic price of the quinoa so high that the people who grow it can’t afford to eat it. As a result, Andean farmers and their families face chronic malnutrition…

ruh-oh.


Filed in: Bolivia nature mother nature Mother Earth environment conservation ecosystems pollution environmentalism

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Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights with equal status for Mother Earth

Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country’s rich mineral deposits as “blessings” and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

"It makes world history. Earth is the mother of all", said Vice-President Alvaro García Linera. "It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration."