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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Global Crafts blog and Fair Trade Calendar (downloadable)

And It’s On to 2017

2017-peace-calendarThis year is the first in a long while that January is a big question mark for me.  I’m trying to be positive but I have no idea what US legislation and laws are going to change my life or others I care about  or what basic human rights are going to be at risk.  I know I’m not alone out there.  I find myself donating money to causes that I feel are constantly in need with aplomb.  I’m signing petitions left and right and have my national representatives on speed dial.
But my last-week-of-December traditions must go on.  Every year I buy a new wall calendar with big write-in boxes.  I then add the semi-monthly payroll dates for the whole year (our staff likes that) and wait until January 1st to hang it.  I’ve been looking for a calendar that denotes events that mean something to me and not just those designated by Hallmark.  Cultural Survival used to produce a small calendar that I could use to transfer these noteworthy events to a bigger National Geographic calendar but they stopped making the calendars for some reason.  I even emailed them suggesting they make some kind of electronic one but I didn’t hear back.
This year I stumbled upon the 2017 Peace Calendar put out by the Syracuse Cultural Workers.  There were no dimensions of the calendar but I took the chance that for $15.95, I’d be getting a wall calendar with the necessary write-in blocks.  And I was not disappointed.  In addition to calling out dates that support the principles of fair trade like Equal Pay Day (April 12th) and World Water Day (March 22nd), it also acknowledges World Fair Trade Day (May 13th this year).  I will report to them that they should update the associated website from which is now a dead link but baby steps.
And while I do in my heart like the concept of a day that “protests earth-destroying consumerism” called Buy Nothing Day that coincides with Black Friday, I do run a business that needs people to buy stuff.  I guess the Syracuse Cultural Workers, whose mission “is to help create a culture that honors diversity and celebrates community; that inspires and nurtures justice, equality and freedom; that respects our fragile Earth and all its beings; that encourages and supports all forms of creative expression” yet relies on the purchases of calendars, tees, buttons, patches, etc. probably agree with me.  Maybe we can change Buy Nothing Day to Only Buy Products That Do Good Day.  With all of the online specials throughout the holiday season, it seems that Black Friday has lost some of its magic as the start of holiday shopping so why not make it a day with meaning?  Let’s replace the frenzy with thoughtfulness and start the holiday gift season on a positive note.  The day after they can buy their wall-size TVs.
I took the liberty of creating a printable calendar with a few of the notable days from my 2017 Peace Calendar that we’ll be promoting in our retail store and you are welcome to do as well.  Wishing all of you a  sane, caring, non-violent, healthy, and most important, peaceful 2017.  Hope to see some of you in Washington DC on January 21st!
Renice co-founded Global Crafts in 2002 with her husband Kevin Ward after settling in Florida after 3 years in Kenya as a Peace Corps volunteer. Creating a Fair Trade business that married her passion for artisan-made pieces and years of experience in IT finally enabled Renice to find her perfect career.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers!


22nd November 2014

All over the world, small farmers are being forced off their land to make way for corporate agriculture, writes GRAIN - and it's justified by the need to 'feed the world'. But it's the small farmers that are the most productive, and the more their land is grabbed, the more global hunger increases. We must give them their land back!

The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.
The United Nations declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. As part of the celebrations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its annual 'State of Food and Agriculture', which this year is dedicated to family farming.
Family farmers, FAO say, manage 70-80% of the world's farmland and produce 80% of the world's food.
But on the ground - whether in Kenya, Brazil, China or Spain - rural people are being marginalised and threatened, displaced, beaten and even killed by a variety of powerful actors who want their land.
A recent comprehensive survey by GRAIN, examining data from around the world, finds that while small farmers feed the world, they are doing so with just 24% of the world's farmland - or 17% if you leave out China and India. GRAIN's report also shows that this meagre share is shrinking fast.
How, then, can FAO claim that family farms occupy 70 to 80% of the world's farmland? In the same report, FAO claims that only 1% of all farms in the world are larger than 50 hectares, and that these few farms control 65% of the world's farmland, a figure much more in line with GRAIN's findings.
Just what is a 'family farm'
The confusion stems from the way FAO deal with the concept of family farming, which they roughly define as any farm managed by an individual or a household. (They admit there is no precise definition. Various countries, like Mali, have their own.)
Thus, a huge industrial soya bean farm in rural Argentina, whose family owners live in Buenos Aires, is included in FAO's count of 'family farms'.
What about sprawling Hacienda Luisita, owned by the powerful Cojuanco family in the Philippines and epicentre of the country's battle for agrarian reform since decades. Is that a family farm?
Looking at ownership to determine what is and is not a family farm masks all the inequities, injustices and struggles that peasants and other small scale food producers across the world are mired in.
It allows FAO to paint a rosy picture and conveniently ignore perhaps the most crucial factor affecting the capacity of small farmers to produce food: lack of access to land. Instead, the FAO focuses its message on how family farmers should innovate and be more productive.
Small farmers are ever more squeezed in
Small food producers' access to land is shrinking due a range of forces. One is that because of population pressure, farms are getting divided up amongst family members. Another is the vertiginous expansion of monoculture plantations.
In the last 50 years, a staggering 140 million hectares - the size of almost all the farmland in India - has been taken over by four industrial crops: soya bean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane. And this trend is accelerating.
In the next few decades, experts predict that the global area planted to oil palm will double, while the soybean area will grow by a third. These crops don't feed people. They are grown to feed the agro-industrial complex.
Other pressures pushing small food producers off their land include the runaway plague of large-scale land grabs by corporate interests. In the last few years alone, according to the World Bank, some 60 million hectares of fertile farmland have been leased, on a long-term basis, to foreign investors and local elites, mostly in the global South.
While some of this is for energy production, a big part of it is to produce food commodities for the global market, instead of family farming.
Small is beautiful - and productive
The paradox, however, and one of the reasons why despite having so little land, small producers are feeding the planet, is that small farms are often more productive than large ones.
If the yields achieved by Kenya's small farmers were matched by the country's large-scale operations, the country's agricultural output would double. In Central America, the region's food production would triple. If Russia's big farms were as productive as its small ones, output would increase by a factor of six.
Another reason why small farms are the feeding the planet is because they prioritise food production. They tend to focus on local and national markets and their own families. In fact, much of what they produce doesn't enter into trade statistics - but it does reach those who need it most: the rural and urban poor.
If the current processes of land concentration continue, then no matter how hard-working, efficient and productive they are, small farmers will simply not be able to carry on.
The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.
According to one UN study, active policies supporting small producers and agro-ecological farming methods could double global food production in a decade and enable small farmers to continue to produce and utilise biodiversity, maintain ecosystems and local economies, while multiplying and strengthening meaningful work opportunities and social cohesion in rural areas.
Agrarian reforms can and should be the springboard to moving in this direction.
To double global food production, we must support the small farmers
Experts and development agencies are constantly saying that we need to double food production in the coming decades. To achieve that, they usually recommend a combination of trade and investment liberalisation plus new technologies.
But this will only empower corporate interests and create more inequality. The real solution is to turn control and resources over to small producers themselves and enact agricultural policies to support them.
The message is clear. We need to urgently put land back in the hands of small farmers and make the struggle for genuine and comprehensive agrarian reform central to the fight for better food systems worldwide.
FAO's lip service to family farming just confuses the matter and avoids putting the real issues on the table.

This opinion piece by GRAIN was first published by Reuters.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Church World Service -Imagine doing this for 6 hours a day...

Photo: CWS images
Imagine doing this for 6 hours a day...
Dear friend,
Yunis woke up at 5 a.m. every day to start her search for water. She would return home around 11 a.m. carrying her heavy burden.
That's six hours. Every single day. And then she had to start the rest of her work for the day.
In Kenya where Yunis lives, and in developing nations around the world, finding enough water for survival is nearly a full-time job. Lack of access to water is one of the greatest single factors trapping families, communities and nations in poverty.
But as Yunis' story shows, caring people like you can change all that. See how you're making a difference in her life and thousands more!
Yours in service,
Rev. John L. McCullough
President and CEO
Church World Service

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Creation Justice Ministries Newsletter Spring 2016

Read the Spring 2016 Edition of Capsules

This edition includes ideas for advocating for the Green Climate Fund, protecting the Arctic Refuge, teaching the connection between religion and science, and more.
Hi Patty,
Spring is in full swing, and the creation justice community is bustling with activity. Here's some of what you will find in the Spring 2016 Edition of Capsules:
* Sacred Duty to Curb Methane Waste
* Prayers, paper lanterns at United Methodist General Conference climate vigil
* 121 Faith Organizations Urge Congress to Invest 750 million in Green Climate Fund
* Take Action to support the Green Climate Fund
* Creation Justice Ministries is seeking people of faith willing to offer peaceful presence upcoming hearings on the federal coal program
* Support Alaska Native communities' struggle to defend their homeland: The Arctic Refuge
* Get involved in the Bears Ears National Monument proposal 
* Protecting God's Creatures: Teleconference, June 5th at 4:00pm ET
* Creating a Climate for Change Conference at the Florence Civic Center in South Carolina on June 9, 2016
* The Powerful Faith-Based Organizing for Climate Justice Conference at Pendle Hill, Pennsylvania on June 16th-19th
* Faith Network Gathering for an Inclusive Economy, July 8th in Buffalo, NY
* Endangered Species round table in: Denver, CO (July 17th) and St. Louis, MO (July 31st)
* Food & Climate crisis info graphic from the Presbyterian Hunger Program
* Catechism Video Series featuring scientist in the Episcopal Church
* Solar Webinar by Presbyterian churches
* ​Presbyterian Hunger Program newsletter; perspectives on trade, ecowomanism and more!
As always, we hope these resources will be of service to your ministry. Read Capsules now.
  In hope,
  Shantha Ready Alonso
  Executive Director, Creation Justice Ministries
Connect with Us

Creation Justice Ministries
110 Maryland Ave NE #203
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 827-3975

Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church Featured in Presbyterian News

California church embraces organic gardening and protecting the environment

Congregation mobilized to reduce its carbon footprint
May 20, 2016
Youth from the Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church prepare gardens for planting.
Youth from the Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church prepare gardens for planting. —Ethan Russell
The rolling hills and beautiful valleys of Marin County, California provide the perfect backdrop for Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church. One look at this majestic landscape and it doesn’t take much to inspire people to protect and nurture it.
With growing concern about the environment, drought and children living in poverty, the Sleepy Hollow congregation was motivated to form an environmental “Green Team” in 2014 and they didn’t have to go very far to determine where to start.
“We have this huge backyard that God has given us and we’ve got gardeners and a commitment to feeding the hungry, so where do we go with all of this?” asked the Rev. Beverly Brewster, pastor. “We have a lot of garden people in our congregation and they looked at this sunny backyard and had a vision.”
Working and collaborating with a Presbyterian Hunger Program grant partner, the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative, church members developed a work plan to develop an organic “justice” garden. [Garden was also partially funded by Cents-Ability grants from the Redwoods Presbytery, Hunger Task Force.]
“This is a well-to-do suburban neighborhood. People have big yards and a lot of them have their own gardens,” said Brewster. “We decided that a community garden wasn’t the need here. The need was to grow food for people who do not get good organic, fresh vegetables.”
After two successful growing seasons, Brewster says God has blessed their garden with huge tomatoes.
“It’s been interesting because many of the neighbors have grown tomatoes but are amazed at how large ours have been,” she said. “We have been so blessed and have actually grown 1,000 pounds of organic tomatoes the past two seasons.”
The vegetables grown in the garden are given to low income senior citizens and children connected with the food bank or are sold at a church farm stand. The money raised then goes back into the garden.
Sleepy Hollow has developed a relationship with a nearby school that serves under-privileged children who are more than happy to receive the garden’s bounty.
“Approximately 93 percent of these children live well below the poverty line,” said Brewster. “When we take our vegetables to the school, the children pick up the tomatoes and eat them like candy. It is such a treat for them and it is amazing to see how their faces brighten up.”
But Sleepy Hollow is about more than growing organic vegetables. The church is involved with water conservation, securing a grant to put in a rainwater catchment tank to support the gardening efforts. The congregation is also in the process of raising funds for solar panels.
“We want to reduce our carbon footprint and be a green church,” said Brewster. “We also hope to eventually put in an electric car charging station.”
“Right relationships with God, others and the earth—we all want it, we crave it, but sometimes we don’t know where to start,” said Ruth Farrell, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian’s story of their mission in their context is encouragement to congregations everywhere. I love that this congregation channels God’s gifts of rain, sun and dirt into something that benefits others, and in so doing, knows the blessing of caring for God’s creation and fellow creatures. Connecting to kids who lack access to healthy food builds friendships with kids and schools which leads to fighting hunger and poverty with all of our tools—meeting needs, advocacy for healthy school lunches as well as programs to help parents provide for their kids, and reducing our own carbon footprint that helps us live in ‘right’ relationships which will end hunger and poverty and lead to all kinds of abundance.”
Brewster says the combined projects and planning have energized the church.
“This has been fantastic. The people love seeing something come out of nothing and it has been an inspiration to be a part of it,” she said. “People are so joyful. It has been revitalizing for the church.”
For more information about how your church can get involved in food justice or environmental issues, visit the Presbyterian Hunger Program web page.

Presbyterian Mission Agency staff adds support for Wendy’s boycott

Presbyterian Mission Agency staff adds support for Wendy’s boycott

Coalition of faith groups, labor organizations protest at shareholder’s meeting

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service
Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, joins the May 26, 2016 protest advocating a boycott of Wendy’s Corporation.
Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, joins the May 26, 2016 protest advocating a boycott of Wendy’s Corporation. Photo by Gregg Brekke

Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, joined more than 60 demonstrators gathered at the headquarters of Wendy’s Corporation in Dublin, Ohio to protest and urge the company to adopt Fair Food Program practices for its purchasing of tomatoes and other produce. The protest, organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), was held May 26, 2016 to coincide with a shareholder’s meeting.
“Wendy’s shareholders are meeting to discuss their massive revenue and approve strategies to increase it,” said Lupe Gonzalo from CIW in a prepared statement. “But what will not be a topic of conversation is the fact that, as the final major fast food holdout to the Fair Food Program they are literally extracting profit from the grinding poverty and abuse of farmworkers all the while manicuring their image with a Code of Conduct for Suppliers that contains absolutely no mechanism for worker participation or enforcement.”
Coalition of Immokalee Workers representative Lupe Gonzalo speaks to demonstrators in front of Wendy’s flagship store in Dublin, Ohio, their the company’s headquarters.
Coalition of Immokalee Workers representative Lupe Gonzalo speaks to demonstrators in front of Wendy’s flagship store in Dublin, Ohio, their the company’s headquarters. Photo by Gregg Brekke
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has supported the CIW from the beginning as it worked to secure Fair Food agreements from Yum Brands, McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway. At its recent meeting in Louisville, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board officially endorsed the call for a national boycott. The Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has also endorsed the boycott, saying, “The PC(USA) joins the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in calling on Wendy’s to sign a Fair Food agreement.”
“Wendy’s has, for many years, avoided the criteria of the Fair Food Program, even as other companies have joined on,” said De La Rosa. “We believe, as people of faith, that it is time for Wendy’s to adopt the criteria of this program. Thievery in the field, sexual harassment and other abuses have no place in the supply chain of our food. It is right and moral that workers receive a fair wage and just working conditions are established.”
Ecumenical and interfaith religious leaders joined student groups and other labor organizations at the protest urging Wendy’s to adopt fair labor practices and increase payments to produce pickers to which other major fast food corporations have agreed. Ruth Farrell and Andrew Kang-Bartlett of the Presbyterian Hunger Program also joined in the protest.
“[Presbyterians] have been with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers for years,” said Farrell. “We’ve marched with them, prayed with them and stood with them as 13 restaurants have signed the Fair Food Program to make sure working condition are fair in the tomato fields and Wendy’s doesn’t want to do it. So after many years, we’re joining with their boycott.”
Three representatives from the protest group were present in the shareholder’s meeting and reported back to the group that Wendy’s claims its internal “code of ethics” binds its employees to a standard for purchasing. But coalition members say this code does not meet the criteria of the Fair Food Program and avoids holding foreign vendors, primarily Mexican produce companies, to any standard at all.
The CIW has called for a boycott against Wendy’s because:
  • Wendy’s has stopped buying tomatoes from Florida altogether. Rather than support the U.S. growers, the company now buys tomatoes from Mexico where reports of widespread human rights violations continue in the produce industry.
  • Wendy’s has rejected the Fair Food Program, but released a new supplier code of conduct that the CIW claims provides no means of worker participation or enforcement.
  • Wendy’s profits from farmworker poverty by refusing to join the FFP and instead, pay for produce from less reputable growers.
In a press release, the CIW stated, “Wendy’s stands alone as the last of the five major U.S. fast food corporations refusing to join the Fair Food Program. By refusing to participate, Wendy’s is deriving a very real cost advantage over its competitors, while continuing to provide a market for less reputable growers.”

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Simple Living eNews May 2016

Simple Living Works! eNews

May, 2016 - #56

In This Issue:

* * *

What's NOW with SLW!

  • Our Daily Nudge reminders us that simple living is more than my or your personal happiness or success. Instead it’s about our mutuality.
    • All SLW! resources can be used for yourself, your family, your congregation or group - for inspiration and education. For example, if you're tired of generic clip art for your worship bulletin, newsletter or web site, hopefully TheNUDGE will guide you to some more challenging, thoughtful reproducible items.
    • It is structured around our "Alternate Any Year Calendar," plus some quotes and art from our collection "Spirit of Simplicity" and alternate celebrations from our "Treasury of Celebrations." Most of the graphics are line art, “retro” drawings on purpose that highlight the text, the words.
    • While my weekly blog focuses on what other simple living/minimalist bloggers and podcasters are doing, and promotes the SLW! podcast, each Daily Nudge will focus on one resource from SLW! timeless archives.
    • While my weekly digest/blog is extensive – some would call it “text heavy” – containing some 50 links, each Daily Nudge is designed to have just one quote, one idea, one link.
    • Follow me, Gerald Iversen, on LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter for a daily nudge, or subscribe by email. Send NUDGE in the subject line to Follow Simple Living Works! on Facebook, Pinterest and now Instagram for occasional nudges. All the nudges are archived so you can catch up if need be. Go to, window #2. Your feedback is, of course, welcome.
    • The theme for May is a new look at Environment - The 4 R's, especially appropriate for our podcast guest, activist Ed Fallon.

What's Coming on SLW!

SLW! Podcast #69 - Renowned scholar and author Walter Brueggemann 

What Others Are Doing - So Much Help!

I'm glad to pass along links from simple living bloggers, podcasters, coaches and others. Some faith-based, some not. You needn't read them all. Choose FIVE links -- including SLW! -- to investigate.


What's Happened

Podcast Reminder

You can access all SLW! podcast audio and the show notes either at or at (then click window #3). Complete Episode Index. Listen through your computer, iPod, iPad, iPhone (or equivalent).

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Peace, Gerald “Jerry” Iversen, Chief SLW! Activist

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*Treasury of Celebrations: published by Northstone, a division of Wood Lake Publications, BC, Canada, best known for its Seasons of the Spirit curriculum.

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