Category Archives: Agriculture

Greeks take to the streets in rage over austerity


Any hope that a Greek coalition government led by the leftist Syriza party of Alexis Tsipras could save the country from the domination of the IMF/European Commission/Eurobank Troika’s harsh asuterity demands has proven illusory, and Greeks are once again hitting the streets to express their outrage of the immiserization of lives.

From the Guardian:

Farmers’ roadblocks, ferries immobilised in ports, pensioners taking to the streets: protest has returned to Greece in what many fear could be the beginning of the crisis-plagued country’s most confrontational winter yet.

From the Greek-Bulgarian frontier to the southern island of Crete, farmers are up in arms over the spectre of more internationally mandated austerity.

“It’s war,” says Dimitris Vergos, a corn grower speaking from the northern town of Naoussa. “If they [politicians] go on pushing us to the edge, if they want to dehumanise us further, we will come to Athens and burn them all.”

From PressTV, a look at one protest, a tractorcade — a form of agrarian protest launched here in the U.S. in the 1970s by the National Farmers Union:

Greek Farmers Block Roads In Anti-Austerity Demo

Still more on the farmers action from euronews:

The Greek government’s plans for pension reforms have brought thousands of farmers out on the streets in protests in the north of the country, and in Athens it was pensioners who voiced their anger.

The farmers have threatened to block key roads with their tractors on Wednesday.

“We have to stop this pension reform plan, because in the end we will be left both without pensions and without health care. They just keep cutting and cutting with each bailout that comes,” said one elderly woman in Athens.

“Their goal is for social security as we know it to cease to exist,” said an 82-year-old man.

Reuters covers another aspect of today’s actions:

Public and private sector workers plan a national walkout on Feb. 4 but ship workers took early action on Wednesday by starting a 48-hour strike that brought passenger shipping activity in the seafaring nation to an effective standstill.

Ferries remained docked at Greek ports and farmers poured milk onto the streets on Wednesday in protest over plans to revamp Greece’s pensions system, a condition for the country’s multi-billion euro bailout.

Public anger is growing over the leftist-led government’s drive to cut its costly pension bill by some 1.8 billion euros this year, the equivalent of about 1 percent of national output.

This footage from the Adalou Agency shows the action — or rather inaction — today at Piraeus, port for the city of Athens, where the engines of the normally bustling ferries are silent and the ships remained moored. Via Video-News:

Protest against government’s plans on social insurance and pension reform in Athens

Program notes:

Mooring ferries during a 48-hour strike of National Seamen’s Federation against the government’s new social security reform, at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece,on 20 January 2016. The National Seamen’s Federation (PNO) announced a 48-hour nationwide strike on 20 and 21 January, during which no ships will set sail from ports around the country. People take fruits and vegetables as open-air fruit and vegetable vendors block with their products the entrance of Labor Ministry, downtown Athens, Greece, and gave away their produce to passersby. The protesters oppose government’s plans on social insurance and pension reforms.

Ekathimerini covers the so-called “necktie protest” in Athens itself:

More than 6,000 Greek white-collar professionals including doctors, lawyers and engineers protested in Athens on Thursday, waving their neckties as they marched against proposed pension reforms required by the country’s creditors.

“No to the law that dumps us in the street,” read one of the banners of the workers who joined in what the Greek media has dubbed the “Necktie Revolution”. Police estimated the crowd at 6,000-strong.

Greece’s leftist government recently proposed reducing the highest pension benefits and increasing social security contributions by both employers and staff.

“According to this proposed law, 84 percent of our earnings will go to taxes and other contributions (to the state),” said a 35-year-old engineer who gave his name as Haris.

RT’s RUPTLY has raw video of the Athens protest:

Greece: Rise of the professionals – architects, engineers and lawyers take to Athens’ streets

Program notes:

Thousands of engineers, lawyers and freelancers marched through Athens, Thursday, to protest against government-proposed reforms to social security payments and pensions, as mandated in the latest tranche of Troika measures.

SOT Katerina Fasoula, Protesting Egineer (Greek): “I voted for Mr. Tsipras two times, because I believed in him and his word, I thought he would understand us engineers, but unfortunately they do not understand anything and only care about strictly personal benefits.”

SOT Vassilis Donas, Protesting Engineer (Greek): “It is impossible for us freelancers to be paying more than 90% of our income in insurance contributions and taxes to the state.”

Syriza campaigned and won on a pledge to overturn the Troika’s austerian regime, and now that it has knuckled under, one wonders what impetus their failure will give to the hopes of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, the only other significant party with a firm anti-Troika stance.

One shudders to think.

Headline of the day II: Signs of a turnaround?


From InvestmentWatch:

Monsanto has terminated 16% of its workforce in recent months, as demand for GMO crops continues to plummet (and organics skyrocket!)

Headline of the day: You knew it was inevitable


From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Tech mavericks see green in burgeoning marijuana industry

  • Silicon Valley financiers investing in marijuana apps, services
  • Venture capitalists get behind efforts to legalize recreational pot use
  • Cannabis startups attracting top talent from technology, finance sectors

Map of the day: U.S. soil types, water capacity


From NASA’s Earth Observatory:

BLOG soils

California reservoir levels remain very low


It’s going to take a lot more precipitation than was brought by this week’s storm to bring their levels up to seasonal norms, according to the latest data from the California Department of Water Resources:

BLOG Res

Headline of the day: Breaking corporate ranks


From the Guardian:

Campbell Soup to become first major food company to label GMO ingredients

The world’s largest soup maker also said it supports federal legislation for mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms on food packaging

Drought hits crops hardest in richest nations


From the McGill University Newsroom:

Drought and extreme heat events slashed cereal harvests in recent decades by 9% to 10% on average in affected countries – and the impact of these weather disasters was greatest in the developed nations of North America, Europe and Australasia, according to a new study led by researchers from McGill University and the University of British Columbia.

At a time when global warming is projected to lead to more extreme weather, the study, published in Nature, provides the most comprehensive look yet at the influence of such events on crop area, yields and production around the world. The researchers analyzed national production data for 16 cereals in the 177 countries included in an international database of extreme weather disasters.

The impact from droughts grew larger in the period from 1985 to 2007, according to the study, which examined the effects of about 2,800 weather disasters from 1964 to 2007.

“We have always known that extreme weather causes crop production losses,” says senior author Navin Ramankutty, professor of global food security and sustainability at UBC’s Liu Institute for Global Issues and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. “But until now we did not know exactly how much global production was lost to such extreme weather events, and how they varied by different regions of the world.”

Differences in agricultural scale and methods

Production levels in the more technically advanced agricultural systems of North America, Europe and Australasia dropped by an average of 19.9% because of droughts – roughly double the global average. This may reflect differences in scale and methods of farming in wealthier countries, compared with the developing world, the researchers say.

“Across the breadbaskets of North America, for example, the crops and methods of farming are very uniform across huge areas, so if a drought hits in a way that is damaging to those crops, they will all suffer,” says first author Corey Lesk, a recent graduate of McGill’s Department of Geography. “By contrast, in much of the developing world, the cropping systems are a patchwork of small fields with diverse crops. If a drought hits, some of those crops may be damaged, but others may survive.

BLOG Drought

Maximizing yields vs. minimizing risk

Farmers in wealthier countries also rarely depend on harvests directly for food, and typically have dependable access to crop insurance in the event of bad weather, Lesk notes. “So the optimal strategy for them may be to maximize yields rather than minimize the risk of weather-related crop damage.”

One bright note does emerge from the analysis: the extreme weather events had no significant lasting impact on agricultural production in the years following the disasters.

“Our findings may help guide agricultural priorities and adaptation efforts, to better protect farming systems and the populations that depend on them,” Ramankutty says.

Pedram Rowhani of the University of Sussex in the UK co-authored the study.