New ebook: Tales of the Whirling Rainbow

September 19, 2010

As of this weekend, I have published a new ebook Tales of the Whirling Rainbow: Authentic Myths & Mysteries for 2012.

The book is my account of some of the key myths and mysteries of the Americas, and an exploration of how those myths are echoed in real time as we edge toward the signal year of 2012. The true stories in the book arise out of my experiences over the last four decades as I have traveled with the traditional wisdom keepers of the Americas, and also out of the venerable tradition of storytelling. While the tales are not overtly agrarian, they all do ultimately bear upon our relationship with the land.

This new ebook is in part a pastiche of elements that I have written for other books and articles, now woven together in a new telling both by the context of time as 2012 approaches, and also by the living, mythic image of the whirling rainbow.

In his book Transformations of Myth Through Time, the late Joseph Campbell noted that a society that does not have a myth to support it and give it coherence goes into dissolution. “That,” he wrote, “is what’s happening to us.”

And that, I feel, is why it is worthwhile to tell the rainbow tales again in yet another way in this ebook: to contribute a word picture of what I regard as a supporting and coherent myth for our times, a mystery to engage the fullness of the contemporary soul.

Extraordinary Circumstances Raise the Specter of Higher Food Prices & Famine

September 6, 2010

I called my 89-year-old mother on Sunday. As we talked she voiced a complaint. A can of green beans she had purchased for 89 cents over a year ago, cost her $1.59 when she bought the same brand and size of vegetables over Labor Day weekend. She lives on a meager, fixed income from Social Security, so the price jump in food hit home for her as a hardship. Elsewhere around the world, for millions of people, the rising cost of food is becoming more than a hardship; it is a threat to their survival.

Perceiving that there are critical months ahead for the cost of food in general and the prospect of famine in particular, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has summoned the world’s grain experts to an ‘extraordinary’ session in Rome to address questions of global food supply and our environmentally stressed biosphere. The emergency meeting is set for September 24.

The Famine - sculpture by artist Rowan Gillespie in Dublin, Ireland.

With the recent history of widespread food riots set off by spiking prices just two years ago, agricultural experts see the potential for further trouble on the near horizon. Grain harvests in the USA are expected to be good, but there are epic difficulties including drought  in Russia, Germany, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Pakistan, Niger, Mozambique, and elsewhere.

Uncertainty about future food supplies has drawn financial speculators into commodity markets in the expectation that they will profit. This speculation drives food prices further upward. As the prices rise, the potential for severe global consequences is mounting.

“The era of cheap, abundant food is over,” declares Australian journalist Julian Cribb in his new book, The Coming Famine: The Global Food Crisis and What We Can Do to Avoid It.

Cribb — and many others — say we have passed the peak not just for oil production, but also for water, fertilizer and land. We will all soon be brought face to face with the reality that we have passed the peak for food as well, Cribb argues with an onslaught of hard data. Wealthy nations will experience shortages and even more acutely rising prices, while poorer nations starve.

Some of Cribb’s proposed responses: subsidizing small farms for their stewardship of the earth, and paying them fairer prices for production; taxing food to reflect its true costs to the environment; regulating practices that counter sustainability while rewarding those that promote it. He suggests that students should be given an entire year of primary schooling devoted to the importance of growing and eating food.

Individuals can make helpful changes more quickly. Dietary change on a wide scale is important, and can be as simple as eating a salad instead of a cheeseburger and an apple instead of a bag of chips. Waste less food. Compost. Garden.. Choose sustainable food,

The prospect of upheaval in global food markets is also articulated in another new book, Empires of Food, by academic Evan Fraser and journalist Andrew Rimas. They write that we are not the first advanced civilization to have misplaced confidence that we’ll always have plenty.

Fraser and Rimas propose no easy solutions, advocating instead that we learn to store surplus food, live locally, farm organically and diversify our crops.

If these journalists, scientists, and economists are correct, and there is mounting evidence to support their view, then it is time to take action. In their books they suggest some sustainable pathways. And in The Call of the Land I have been able to set out dozens of other models and pathways. Since the book was published a year ago, even more models have blossomed — but those models need to be emulated widely and swiftly in every city, suburb and village. For all these reasons and more, I have begun an active search for financial support to write a greatly expanded second edition of the book, and to disseminate it widely.

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