The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

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Poetry in Afghanistan: New York Times Profiles Matiullah Turab


The New York Times features the life and writing of Matiullah Turab. Mr. Turab is a popular poet who performs throughout Afghanistan and works during the day as a metalsmith.

With his unflinching words, Mr. Turab, 44, offers a voice for Afghans grown cynical about the war and its perpetrators: the Americans, the Taliban, the Afghan government, Pakistan.
War has turned into a trade
Heads have been sold
as if they weigh like cotton,
and at the scale sit such judges
who taste the blood, then decide the price
Though poetry is loved, it seldom pays. Some writers have taken government jobs, finding the steady paycheck and modest responsibilities conducive to their work. Mr. Turab, for his part, has stuck to his dingy garage on the outskirts of Khost City.
“This is my life, what you see here: banging iron, cutting it short, making it long,” he said. “I still don’t call myself a poet.” Continue reading

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Parenting Expands Spiritual Practice

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg discusses how motherhood has impacted her religious practices and expanded her spritual expression in The New York Times:

When I was a rabbinical student and then a new rabbi, I wrote and spoke often about the importance of regular spiritual practice. Fixed discipline, I said, could hold you in your attempts to connect with the sacred.

Then I became a mother, and my prayer life tanked. The liturgy just wasn’t the same solace it used to be, and I couldn’t figure out how to force myself back into the old practice. I felt like a failure, a fraud with a dirty secret: the rabbi who couldn’t figure out how to pray.

Yet I should have expected that my spirituality would be different, given how many other things had changed. It wasn’t just me, either. I started to realize this wasn’t uncommon. My mother always said that she never believed in God until she had children, for example, and it turned out that some of my rabbi-mom friends were in a similar boat, confessing in whispers that holding a sleeping child felt much more like worship than reading psalms most days. Continue reading

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Anti-Mystic Activist Killed in India

Looks like these “men of God” felt Dr. Dabholkar was a pretty big threat to their mumbo jumbo.  Not a very mystical way to act. From The New York Times World desk:

NEW DELHI — The police on Wednesday detained a member of Sanatan Sanstha, a right-wing Hindu organization, in the killing last week of an activist who often debunked village mystics and had campaigned for a law banning “black magic.”  The police detained the man, Sandeep Shinde, at the organization’s headquarters in the coastal state of Goa, said Rajesh Bansode, the deputy police commissioner in Pune, where the killing took place. Mr. Shinde will be questioned by investigators in Pune, he said.

Here’s more on the story:

PUNE, India — For nearly three decades, an earnest man named Narendra Dabholkar traveled from village to village in India, waging a personal war against the spirit world.

If a holy man had electrified the public with his miracles, Dr. Dabholkar, a former physician, would duplicate the miracles and explain, step by step, how they were performed. If a sorcerer had amassed a fortune treating infertility, he would arrange a sting operation to unmask the man as a fraud. His goal was to drive a scientist’s skepticism into the heart of India, a country still teeming with gurus, babas, astrologers, godmen and other mystical entrepreneurs. Continue reading

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Mohsen Namjoo Stirs Things Up

Jon Pareles introduces us to Mohsen Namjoo and his music in The New York Times:

The songwriter Mohsen Namjoo stirs things up in Iran. Mr. Namjoo…plays the setar, a long-necked lute, and is steeped in Persian classical and literary traditions. But in Iran, where Western music was banned in 2005, Mr. Namjoo decided to fuse Persian music with rock and jazz and to sing — in a voice that can push from the nuances of Persian improvisation to the rougher attack of the blues — about the conditions facing his generation: unemployment, repression, violence. Though he was not allowed to perform in public or licensed to sell CDs, his music spread in private events, on the black market and via YouTube and radio. Continue reading

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Golden Rice: Spending Millions to Reinvent the Wheel

Beth Hoffman’s article in Forbes mirrors my sentiments exactly.  In response to a commenter, she asks:

The question is – after 30 years of research, how much has actually been spent creating a product like Golden Rice? How many billions of vitamin A supplements could have been purchased and passed out already – saving the millions who have gone blind while those in the lab funded their research.

Here’s the entire article.  I think many of you will agree wholeheartedly:

Recently the debate over genetically modified (GMO) foods has heated up again.  In just the past few weeks, articles about GMOs have appeared in Slate, the New York Times, and Grist.  And over the weekend New York Times writer Amy Harmon wrote again of the saving graces ofgenetically engineered foods, this time citing “Golden Rice” as a clear example of the life saving abilities of GMOs. Continue reading


Agribusiness advocacy organizations work to block “time-tested” strategies to increase crop yields in drought conditions

The New York Times has a great piece by Gary Paul Nabhan on the threat posed to our food supply by the heat wave now blanketing the Western States:

People living outside the region seldom recognize its immense contribution to American agriculture: roughly 40 percent of the net farm income for the country normally comes from the 17 Western states; cattle and sheep production make up a significant part of that, as do salad greens, dry beans, onions, melons, hops, barley, wheat and citrus fruits. The current heat wave will undeniably diminish both the quality and quantity of these foods.
What’s more, when food and forage crops, as well as livestock, have had to endure temperatures 10 to 20 degrees higher than the long-term averages, they require far more water than usual. The Western drought, which has persisted for the last few years, has already diminished both surface water and groundwater supplies and increased energy costs, because of all the water that has to be pumped in from elsewhere.

This will undoubtedly increase food prices, affecting consumers still stressed by the economic downturn.  And while farmers can count on crop insurance to defray their losses, “such assistance is merely a temporary response to a long-term problem.”  Nabhan notes that there are “dozens of time-tested strategies that our best farmers and ranchers have begun to use. ”  The problem is that “several agribusiness advocacy organizations have done their best to block any federal effort to promote them, including leaving them out of the current farm bill, or of climate change legislation at all.”

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Leaders of world sovereignty movement react to 2013 world food prize going to GMO scientists

Lappé and Shiva’s remarks echo those of the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, which stated that the prize going to the biotech giants “sends precisely the wrong message about sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.”

“Never mind that Monsanto is a sponsor of the prize (and that the list of other backers reads like a who’s who of big ag and big food), or that we never get to know the names of either the nominees or the nominators,” New York Times‘ Mark Bittman noted.

The GMO work by the winning scientists “betrays the mandate of the very World Food Prize,” explains Lappé, “which is all about focus on the importance of nutritious food and food for all, whereas GMO seeds, their design and the way they are spread to the world has nothing to do with better nutrition.”

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Rural Folk Poetry of Afghanistan

Poetry magazine is devoting its entire June issue to Journalist Eliza Griswold and London Filmaker Seamus Murphy’s project which portrays “Afghan life through the prism of oral folk poems…”

For 10 years, journalist Eliza Griswold reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan for publications like The New York Times and The New Yorker. But she was frustrated that in pursuit of the headlines, some of her most interesting stories were left on the cutting room floor. Too often, she felt, she wasn’t able to convey the humanity and humor of the Afghan people who were living with the daily realities of war.Last year, she embarked on a project to tell those stories by collecting oral folk poems shared mostly among Pashtun women.

I dream I am the president.
When I awake, I am the beggar of the world.

The poems are called landays. Just two lines long with 22 syllables, they carry a bite. (One meaning of the word landay is short, poisonous snake.)

“This is rural folk poetry. This is poetry that’s meant to be oral. It’s passed mouth to mouth. Ear to ear. And the women have recited these poems for centuries,” said Griswold.Over the past decade, many of the landays have also expressed anger about the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan:

May God destroy the White House and kill the man
who sent U.S. cruise missles to burn my homeland.

Others are filled with sorrow:

In battle, there should be two brothers:
One to be martyred, one to wind the shroud of the other.

The article can be found here.

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Bloomberg still trying to create the nanny state – in a good way.

English: New York Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

English: New York Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the endeavor gets off the ground, all 8 million residents of the most populated city in the United States will have to start putting aside food waste and other organic materials, such as houseplants and eggshells, then package them separately to be picked up by specialized trash collectors.

Compostable waste will have to be differentiated from other garbage and recyclables, and in a few years’ time the city could start imposing fines on those who fail to comply, the paper reported.
Only four months ago, Bloomberg hinted at the program in his State of the City address when he said food waste was “New York City’s final recycling frontier.”
We bury 1.2 million tons of food waste in landfills every year at a cost of nearly $80 per ton,” he said. “That waste can be used as fertilizer or converted to energy at a much lower price. That’s good for the environment and for taxpayers.”
In cities where similar programs are in place, residents are already seeing what good can come. In San Francisco, more than one million tons of organic waste has been collected since the program started 16 years ago, in turn helping the city divert roughly 80 percent of waste that would otherwise be sent to a landfill.
Parts of Staten Island, a borough of New York, already started attempting an organic waste recycling program last April. According to the city’s senior sanitation official, 43 percent of the 3,500 single-family homes have begun participating already. If the program becomes widespread, city officials tell the times they want to start off by offering organ waste containers to around 150,000 single family homes by the end of the year.

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Where Jewels Come From

The New York Times has an interesting article on how gems tell us “important things about the planet.”

Every gem fixed to every ring or necklace was forged deep inside our planet, according to its own recipe of elements, temperature and pressure.
In the journal Geology, Dr. Harlow — writing with Robert J. Stern of the University of Texas at Dallas, Tatsuki Tsujimori of Okayama University in Japan and Lee A. Groat of the University of British Columbia — explores some stories that gems like jade can tell. Each is different. While jade is produced from dying oceans, for example, rubies are forged in newborn mountains.
Continents are ringed by rocks like shale, formed from sediments washing off of land. When crushed in this subterranean forge, shale can produce crystals of aluminum and oxygen.
If these crystals stop developing, they become sapphires. But the crystals may instead get pushed up toward the surface of the Earth. The overlying rock they move into is rich in chromium. The chromium atoms push the aluminum atoms out of the crystals and take their place, giving them a red color. “When they get a little chromium in them, we call them rubies,” Dr. Stern said.

I’ve posted the entire article under the Science tab for those who are inerested.