Urban sprawl works differently in China

October 27, 2015

Much of our flight to China we fond the ground, or ocean, obscured by clouds. About an hour out of Beijing, we caught glimpses of China’s countryside.

It’s different there.

If you’ve flown much over the U.S., you’re familiar with agricultural regions having identifiable features such as the large circles created by irrigation systems, or the grid-pattern fields laid out across much of the American Midwest. Those fields are punctuated, especially at night, by farmhouses, smaller crossroads featuring a few more buildings, small towns, and increasing urbanization along the highways going into bigger cities.

In China, north of Beijing, human habitations are much more dense than small U.S. farm towns, and the fields themselves appear almost wholly absent of human habitation.

Semi-rural area north of Beijing, from 30,000 feet or so. Note new, high-rise apartment buildings in the small town. Photo by Ed Darrell

Semi-rural area north of Beijing, from 30,000 feet or so. Note new, high-rise apartment buildings in the small town. Photo by Ed Darrell

Here’s a photo I took from our airplane window, looking to the west, over China at least 100 miles north of Beijing. ChinaCom’s system doesn’t identify locations to my iPhone as Verizon’s system does in the U.S.; I have not yet identified the river, though I think it may be the north-flowing Songhua-Amur Rivers complex.

Agricultural fields are neatly laid out. Notice there is no room left for wild lands, where wildlife might find a home.

Agricultural fields are neatly laid out. Notice there is no room left for wild lands, where wildlife might find a home.

I was struck by the lack of uncultivated, unplowed or undeveloped land. Fields abut each other tightly, without even hedgerows between them. We noticed a marked lack of wildlife on other parts of our trip; without even space for weeds to grow between the fields, wildlife habitat is reduced essentially to nil. Does that harm or benefit agricultural production, and other production?

Not a perfect comparison, but here is a nearly-randomly-selected USGS aerial photo of farmland in the U.S., near Jerseyville, Illinois (from much lower airplane elevation):

USGS photo of land near Jerseyville, Illinois, near the Illinois River. Hills are unplowed now (they may have been farmed in the past), and waterways have banks of brush and trees for some distance, partly to control erosion. Notice wild tree and shrub growth between some fields.

USGS photo of land near Jerseyville, Illinois, near the Illinois River. Hills are unplowed now (they may have been farmed in the past), and waterways have banks of brush and trees for some distance, partly to control erosion. Notice wild tree and shrub growth between some fields.

This photos are not an exact comparison, but you can get the idea that worries me.

China’s tightly-controlled development policies over the past five decades, coupled with a thousand years or so of continued, developed and intentional habitation on these lands, leaves little room for something that is not planned.

Little room for nature. Someone would argue China’s land use is required in order to feed a massive population. Is that so?

On the trip I ran into a fellow working for a company trying to figure out ways to bioremediate polluted rivers in China, since the government came to realize polluted water harms human health and agricultural and riparian production downstream. One way would be to establish buffer lands along the banks of rivers. Can China change policies to allow that to happen, in time?

Pretty from an airplane window. Reflective of wise land use policies? There’s a rich discussion.

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César Chávez Day, 2015

March 31, 2015

features a portrait of Cesar against a background of empty grape fields. It was painted by illustrator Robert Rodriguez from a 1976 photo,

Postage stamp honoring Cesar Chavez in 2003. “The stamp features a portrait of Cesar against a background of empty grape fields. It was painted by illustrator Robert Rodriguez from a 1976 photo,” according to the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

President Obama declared March 31, 2015, César Chávez Day, as he did in 2014.  Here’s the press release version of the proclamation.

For Immediate Release                                                         March 30, 2015

Presidential Proclamation — Cesar Chavez Day, 2015

CÉSAR CHÁVEZ DAY, 2015

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION

For more than two centuries, the arc of our Nation’s progress has been shaped by ordinary people who have dedicated their lives to the extraordinary work of building a more perfect Union.  It is a story of achievement and constant striving that has found expression in places where America’s destiny has been decided — in Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, and in the golden fields of California where an American hero discovered his mighty voice.  Today, we honor César Chávez and his lifetime of work to make our country more free, more fair, and more just, and we reaffirm the timeless belief he embodied:  those who love their country can change it.

A son of migrant workers and a child of the Great Depression, César Chávez believed every job has dignity and every person should have the chance to reach beyond his or her circumstances and realize a brighter future.  When no one seemed to care about the farm workers who labored without basic protections and for meager pay to help feed the world, César Chávez awakened our Nation to their deplorable conditions and abject poverty — injustices he knew firsthand.  He organized, protested, fasted, and alongside Dolores Huerta, founded the United Farm Workers.  Slowly, he grew a small movement to a 10,000-person march and eventually a 17-million-strong boycott of table grapes, rallying a generation around “La Causa” and forcing growers to agree to some of the first farm worker contracts in history.  Guided by a fierce commitment to nonviolence in support of a righteous cause, he never lost faith in the power of opportunity for all.

As a Nation, we know the struggle to live up to the principles of our founding does not end with any one victory or defeat.  After César Chávez fought for higher wages, he pushed for fresh drinking water, workers’ compensation, pension plans, and protection from pesticides.  He strove every day for the America he knew was possible.  Today, we must take up his work and carry forward this great unfinished task.

When immigrants labor in the shadows, they often earn unfair wages and their families and our economy suffer — that is one reason why we have to fix our broken immigration system and why I keep calling on the Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.  We need to continue to defend the collective bargaining rights countless individuals have fought so hard for and ensure our economy rewards hard work with a fair living wage, paid leave, and equal pay for equal work.

César Chávez knew that when you lift up one person, it enriches a community; it bolsters our economy, strengthens our Nation, and gives meaning to the creed that out of many, we are one.  As we celebrate his life, we are reminded of our obligations to one another and the extraordinary opportunity we are each given to work toward justice, equal opportunity, and a better future for every one of our sisters and brothers.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2015, as César Chávez Day.  I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor César Chávez’s enduring legacy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.

[signed] BARACK OBAMA

No call for a flying of flags, but you may certainly fly your Old Glory, if you wish.

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Meanwhile, back at the rice paddy, global warming holds families hostage . . .

May 1, 2013

See this United Nations Development Program ten-minute video that, to the wise and concerned, lays out the stakes of delaying action against human-caused climate change.

Without enough funding, NGOs work to help farmers getting hammered in the Southern Philippines, and other places.

In the Southern Philippines, farmers’ lives and the weather are intimately interwoven, but something is changing, now that the rains in Agusan del Norte are too heavy, the sun shines too fiercely. Now there’s hope for poor farmers with the community-based approach monitoring and Weather Index-Based Insurance packages, to warn people when heavy weather is on the way.

Though, I do weary of the astonishing abuse of acronyms in this work-of-the-angels. “WIBI?”

Incidentally, though the phrase doesn’t appear anywhere in this material, this is exactly the sort of work carried on by the UN’s Agenda 21 project.  Doesn’t look subversive to me.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the UNDP and ILO Tweet:

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Map of the Philippines with Agusan del Norte h...

Map of the Philippines with Agusan del Norte highlighted. Wikipedia image


Hog wild in Texas: Ranchers, guns, and science working against environmental disaster

February 25, 2013

Unusual?  No, this is really a typical marriage of agriculture, government agencies, science and hunters, working on problems of wildlife management, feral hogs in this case.

Notes from Texas Parks & Wildlife:

Feral hogs are running wild across Texas, at great cost to farmers, ranchers, and native wildlife. Hunters are helping, but science may prove critical to controlling the invasion on a broader scale. For more information on feral hogs and feral hog control, visit: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/…

When it comes to feral hogs, every Texan turns environmentalist.

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English: Sign for Texas Parks and Wildlife Dep...

Sign for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department headquarters – Wikipedia image


Selecting a replacement for South Carolina’s Sen. Jim DeMint

December 9, 2012

Pecan tree shaker

Machine used by the San Antonio River Authority, similar to one to be used in South Carolina.


U.S. actions to support Agenda 21: Soil conservation, farm and rural development; no population control, no black helicopters

October 24, 2012

Not sure what Agenda 21 is?  It’s the larger program of the United Nations to pick up where the U.S. Soil Conservation Service left off (SCS is now the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, NRCS).  Erosion control.  Don’t deplete the soils.  Keep water sources clean and flowing.  Use wise plowing practices to prevent another Dust Bowl.  Get Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and Future Farmers of America and 4-H Clubs to build check dams and plant beneficial trees.

See a quick explanation of Agenda 21 here (courtesy of Grist, here).

Keenan Wynn and a Coke machine, Dr. Strangelove (publicity still?)

Keenan Wynn as Col. Bat Guano, pauses before shooting open a Coke machine to get change to place a call to the President of the United States to save the world, in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” (publicity still?).  Agenda 21 is not like “Dr. Strangelove,” except perhaps in the minds of those poisoned by dramatic over-consumption of Coca-Cola or Monster Cola.

You can’t find that stuff easily on Google, nor Bing, usually.  Instead you’ll find people worrying about black helicopters, the massive, unseen and never-detected UN Army poised to take over U.S. golf courses, and unhinged rants about forced population control, rants worthy of Col. Bat Guano but lacking Kubrick’s and Southern’s and George’s wit or Keenan Wynn‘s sharp delivery.  (Yes, if you hear someone complaining about Agenda 21, you may and perhaps should say, “That’s Bat Guano!”)

Agenda 21 is the umbrella agency under which nations who are members of the UN undertake studies of Earth’s resources, human effects upon those resources, and which makes recommendations about how to save our planet’s resources from depletion.  KyotoRio CopenhagenIPCC.

Agenda 21 is about as milk toast a policy initiative as it is possible to get.  Why all the angst among so-called neo-conservatives and so-called libertarians?  Beats me.  I can only imagine that they have never read any of the documents, know nothing of the issues discussed, and have slept through much of the past 50 years on farm and food production issues.

Should we fear, as Paul Sadler‘s GOP opponent for the Texas U.S. Senate seat does, that Agenda 21 will require Texas to turn over all its golf courses to the UN?  No, we should instead pay attention to what the government has actually done in support of Agenda 21 initiatives — all of which are voluntary under the Agenda 21 program and the UN Charter.  Also, perhaps, we should make sure to vote against anyone who tries to instill fear by misstating what Agenda 21 is, or does, or “requires” (Yeah, you, Ted Cruz — what sort of crazy are you on? and this is why we’re voting for Paul Sadler instead; we need rational people who love Texas more than crazies who speak smack about golf courses and people who golf).

Here’s the White House list of activities to support Agenda 21 in the last four years; can you find the black helicopters and UN takeover of U.S. territory?  No, neither can anyone else:

Policy Initiatives

President Obama’s administration understands that a strong American economy is contingent upon a strong rural economy. Since the creation of the White House Rural Council, the President has made historic investments in rural America designed to drive job growth.  The actions will help ensure the development of a rural economy built to last.  These actions include:

Doubling Small Business Administration (SBA) Investment Funds for Rural Small Businesses
Announced August 2011

The Administration established a rural “carve-out” in the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Impact Investment Program that will invest in distressed areas and emerging sectors such as clean energy.  SBA will provide up to a 2:1 match to private capital raised by the fund.  SBA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are committed to partnering to drive $350 million of investment capital through the fund and existing SBICs into rural small businesses over five years, doubling the current rate of investment.

Providing Job Search Information through USDA Field Offices
Announced August 2011

The USDA and Department of Labor (DOL) partnered to offer job training information and better utilize the rural footprint of the USDA field offices across the country to provide them with greater access to job search resources by reducing the driving times and distances for rural customers seeking program information.

Expansion of the National Health Service Corps to Critical Access Hospitals
Announced August 2011

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expanded eligibility for the National Health Service Corps loan repayment program so that Critical Access Hospitals, those with 25 beds or fewer, can recruit new physicians, using student loan repayment incentives.  This program will help hospitals across the country recruit needed staff.  Once a hospital has qualified as a service site, it can then apply for student loan repayment on behalf of its primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.

Expanding Health Information Technology in Rural Communities
Announced August 2011

USDA and HHS signed an agreement to improve access to capital for rural hospitals and other providers seeking to implement health information technology and expand the health IT workforce in rural communities.

Commercial Aviation Biofuels Partnership
Announced August 2011

The Navy, the Department of Energy, and USDA have joined forces to spur the creation of an advanced biofuels industry that will support commercial aviation, with a pledge of $510 million, over three years, under the Defense Production Act of 1950.

Promoting a Bioeconomy through BioPreferred
Announced February 2012

To support the Administration’s “Blueprint for a Bioeconomy,” the President is utilizing the purchasing power of the Federal government by directing Federal agencies to take additional steps to significantly increase the purchase of biobased products over the next two years, which will create thousands of new rural jobs and drive innovation where biobased products are grown and manufactured. Utilizing the existing BioPreferred program, the Federal government will use its procurement power to increase the purchasing and use of biobased products, promoting rural economic development, creating new jobs, and providing new markets for farm commodities. Biobased products include items like paints, soaps and detergents and are developed from farm grown plants, rather than chemicals or petroleum bases. The biobased products sector marries the two most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing.

Rural Jobs Accelerator
Announced February 2012

The “Rural Jobs Accelerator” will link Federal programs to facilitate job creation and economic development in rural communities by utilizing regional development strategies. The “Rural Jobs Accelerator” will allow multiple agencies to coordinate technical assistance and grant/loan programs so that a consortium of public and private rural entities can have a single access point within the Federal government, allowing for improved access, streamlining of programs, and better leveraging of resources.  USDA and EDA will leverage approximately $14 million in funding, with technical support from Delta Regional Authority, Appalachian Regional Commission, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Education.

Development of Rural Health IT Workforce
Announced February 2012

HHS and the DOL signed a memorandum of understanding to link community colleges and technical colleges that support rural communities with available materials and resources to support the training of HIT professionals.  Rural health care providers face challenges in harnessing the benefits of health information technology (HIT) due to limited capital and a workforce that is not trained to work within the expanding field of HIT. Due to lower financial operating margins and limited capital, funds for hiring new staff or training existing staff in HIT implementation and maintenance are often simply not available to rural health care providers.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the needed HIT workforce will increase by 20 percent by the year 2016.  A significant part of that growth will come in rural areas, which are served by approximately 2,000 rural hospitals, 3,700 Rural Health Clinics as well as the more than 3,000 Community and Migrant Health Centers that are either located in or serve rural communities.

Timber and National Forest Restoration
Announced  February 2012

USDA’s Forest Service, in conjunction with the White House Rural Council, released a strategy to increase the scale of restoration treatments like forest thinning, reforestation, and other activities to restore and sustain the health of our forests.  In addition to environmental benefits, these activities create jobs in the forest industry which has been hurt significantly by the economic downturn.  The strategy relies on (1) using collaborative approaches to broaden public support for forest restoration; (2) expanding restoration tools like the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program and stewardship contracting; (3) better targeting budget resources; and (4) streamlining forest planning and analysis without sacrificing quality.

Mortgage Refinancing
Announced February 2012

The Administration announced an initiative to assist rural homeowners refinance their mortgages at lower interest rates through USDA’s Rural Development agency. By reallocating existing funding, at no additional cost to taxpayers, USDA will have almost doubled the amount of funds available to homeowners seeking to lower their mortgage payments or avoid foreclosure.  Under the new allocation, the amount of the $24 billion program dedicated to refinancing will increase from $520 million to $1.1 billion, allowing USDA to meet the growing demand for refinance transactions.

Task Force on Tourism and Competitiveness
Announced January 2012

On January 19, the President signed an Executive Order creating a Task Force charged with developing a National Travel and Tourism Strategy with recommendations for new policies and initiatives to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the United States. The strategy will include recommendations to promote visits to the United States public lands, waters, shores, monuments, and other iconic American destinations, thereby expanding job creation in the United States, as well as tourism opportunities in rural communities. The Task Force is co-chaired by Secretary Salazar and Secretary Bryson, with participation from USDA, other agencies and WH offices.

Advancing Water Quality Conservation across the U.S.
Announced May 2012

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the launch of a new National Water Quality Initiative committed to improving one to seven impaired watersheds in every U.S. state and territory. The Initiative is part of the Obama Administration’s White House Rural Council which is working in partnership with farmers, ranchers and forest owners to improve conservation of working lands in rural America. The 157 selected watersheds were identified with assistance from state agencies, key partners, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Technical Committees. NRCS will make available at least $33 million in financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners this year to implement conservation practices to help provide cleaner water for their neighbors and communities.

Small Business Administration Investing in Rural Small Businesses
Announced June 2012

The Administration extended more than $400 million in FY 2011 of investments in rural America through the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Impact Investment Program, at no cost to taxpayers. Nearly $2 billion in additional funding will be invested by the end of fiscal year 2016. These investments will continue to help finance, grow, expand, and modernize rural small business operations around the country.

MOU to Improve Support in the Colonias
Announced June 2012

The U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD), Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI) partnered to create the Border Community Capital Initiative. This collaboration is designed to expand access to capital in the U.S/Mexico border region which includes some of the poorest communities in the country. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will provide up to $200,000 to nonprofit and/or tribal financial institutions that serve colonias. This funding will go to increase access to basic necessities such as safe drinking water, adequate sewage systems, and safe, sanitary housing.

U.S Department of Education Investing in Rural Schools
Announced June 2012

Through the national broadband plan, the Obama Administration will leverage the power of technology to overcome distance and increase collaboration to accelerate student achievement in rural schools. The White House Rural Council partnered with the U.S Department of Education to deliver a new online community of practice groups for rural schools. This online tool will create virtual communities of practice for educators to connect to resources, tools, colleagues, experts, and learned activities both within and beyond schools. The Administration is using technology to break down geographic barriers and address rural isolation in education.

Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure Deployment
Announced June 2012

On June 14, 2012 President Obama signed an Executive Order to make broadband construction along Federal roadways and properties up to 90 percent cheaper and more efficient. U.S agencies that manage Federal properties and roads will partner to offer carriers a single approach to leasing Federal assets for broadband deployment. Providing a uniform approach for broadband carriers to build networks will speed the delivery of connectivity to communities, business, and schools in rural America. In order to further expand the nations broadband service, more than 25 cities and 60 national research universities are partnering to form “US Ignite.” US Ignite will create a new wave of services that will extend programmable broadband networks to 100 times the speed of today’s internet. This partnership will improve services to Americans and drive job creation, promote innovation, and create new markets for American business.

Supporting Appalachian Communities
Announced June 2012

Facilitated through the White House Rural Council, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) developed a Livable Communities Initiative. This initiative is a partnership between ARC, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD). The initiative provides technical assistance to small rural towns to help them develop and implement strategies for making the communities more livable and competitive. The partnership will focus on expanding transportation choices, supporting thriving and distinctive rural communities by investing in rural town centers, and extending affordable housing opportunities.

There is nothing seriously objectionable in that list of activities.  If you’re an astute, patriotic American, you’ll recognize a lot of actions that strengthen our nation.  Maybe opposition to Agenda 21 is a virus spread by an insect vector — there is no rational explanation for it, certainly.

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Highlights from the video, as listed at the White House blog:

Drought Relief: President Obama also toured McIntosh Family Farms in Missouri Valley, Iowa to see drought damage first-hand and offer relief to those being effected. The President announced that the Department of Agriculture will begin to buy up to $170 million worth of pork, chicken, lamb, and catfish. And the President is directing the Department of Defense — which purchased more than 150,000 million pounds of beef and pork in the last year alone — to encourage its vendors to accelerate meat purchases for the military and freeze it for future use.

“Understand this won’t solve the problem. We can’t make it rain,” the President said. “But this will help families like the McIntoshes in states across the country, including here in Iowa. And we’re going to keep doing what we can to help because that’s what we do. We are Americans. We take care of each other.”

To learn more, the Department of Agriculture is collecting resources for farmers, ranchers, and small businesses wrestling with this crisis at USDA.gov/drought. More information still is available at WhiteHouse.gov/drought.

Banner Year for the U.S. Wind Industry: Also this week, the Energy Department and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released a new report highlighting strong growth in America’s wind energy market in 2011 and underscoring the importance of continued policy support and clean energy tax credits to ensure that the U.S. remains a leading producer and manufacturer in this booming global industry.As President Obama has made clear, we need an all-of-the-above approach to American energy and the U.S. wind industry is a critical part of this strategy. In fact, wind energy contributed 32 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity additions last year, representing $14 billion in new investment.

Wall of Shame on Agenda 21; sites that promote the crazies:


Gilbert and Near, Woody’s “Pastures of Plenty”

October 20, 2012

Woody Guthrie wrote of freedom . . . when was this written? 1930-something?  [1941, it turns out.]

Ronnie Gilbert and Holly Near combine on one of my favorite arrangements of the song.

[That one disappeared? Try this one:]

This film must be at least ten years old, maybe more.  The song is more than 60 years old [71 years — from 1941].

It’s still a powerful indictment of corporate greed, heartless and oppressive immigration policies, and it’s a case for a strong labor movement.

Be sure you vote in the November 6 elections.  Sing this song on the way to the polls.

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