Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rough Draft - 10 page summary of first three months.

If you have any time, you can read this very disorganized ten page summary!!

Below is a shorter 3 page summary and below that are links to my pictures which you should check out!!!
Sorry the formatting is so bad.

Feel free to share this or any parts of it with anyone. Hopefully I will write more organized at some later date.

Rough Draft - First Watson Report

Adam Forbes
Crops and Cultures: The Preservation of Heirloom Varieties

Preface to My Report:

Trying to sum up the past three months in a concise report is an extremely difficult task. Over the past few days I have attempted to start this report many times and given up when I became overwhelmed with all the memories. Today, I typed 10 pages attempting to sum up my experiences and did not even get halfway. In the simplest terms the past three months in India has been a roller coaster ride of challenging situations, excellent tastes, foul smells, educational experiences, eye-opening moments, piercing headaches, and inspirational interviews. As I reflect on my time spent in India countless memories rush back. I remember walking through the “cancer villages” in Punjab with pesticides filling my nose and mouth. I remember the old- nearly toothless woman as she climbs down into her seed bank and returns with countless varieties of spices, millet, amaranth, rice, and beans. I remember laughing with farmers as we harvest rice and crying with farmers as we discuss their debt and the death of their son. India has shocked me, depressed me, and provided me an immense amount of hope for the world – all at the same time. I could write fifty pages on just one day spent touring farms in Garwhal or in Punjab. Nonetheless, I will attempt to sum up my experiences in a somewhat cohesive manner so you get a sense of my journey.

I woke up groggy as our plane neared Chennai and looked to the man next to me. He was praying passionately over images of Krishna; clutching the faded pictures tight to his chest, moving his hands in a rhythmic pattern. All of a sudden, I became exuberant as I realized that my trip was beginning and this was the start of a year of freedom and personal growth. However, these happy feelings were soon changed drastically. After landing in a chaotic, dirty, and extremely muggy Indian city at 3 am I was hassled by taxi drivers, swindled into a more expensive room, and pestered incessantly by hotel staff. As I finally lay down in my room I began to cry uncontrollably. The tears soon mixed with my sweat and the lingering water from the shower that wouldn’t dry. It seemed as if things couldn’t get any worse.

One week later I woke up to see the sun rising over fields of corn, rice, and lentils. I had been traveling overnight from Delhi in a crowded and hot Indian bus. However, I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear as I saw the dappled light of the early morning sun shine down on fields of villagers waking to the day – collecting water and beginning their work in the fields. I smiled as I remembered the old men walking calmly down chaotic urban streets sipping chai as buses, rickshaws, cars, cows, motorcycles, and bikes swerved around them. I smiled as I thanked the yoga teacher, Acharya, for helping me to overcome my feelings of fear and depression. Most importantly, I smiled as I realized that I would soon be at the first farm. After only a short time I had accepted the chaos and extremes that typifies India.

In India one must adjust to the retched smells and striking poverty, but also to the different notions of time and the constant stares and hassles of being a white person. One must adjust to the massive gaps between rich and poor in a country where some people have 4 cell phones and drop hundreds of dollars on drinks while others who are sick from pesticide-laden water lie on the street receiving no help. All the challenges in India mix somehow with the delicious food, colorful dresses, friendly families, and soulful music to create a vibrant tapestry of life in this changing world.

The challenge of my first week in India faded quickly as I settled into life at the Navdanya Biodiversity Conservation Farm in Northern India. Vandana Shiva, world-renowned physicist, author and political activist founded Navdanya over 15 years ago after learning about the crisis of farmers losing control of their seeds. While Navdanya has expanded their efforts into numerous other issues, seed saving still lies at the core of their work. Navdanya’s pioneering research on the hazards of chemical farming, the costs of industrial agriculture and the risks of genetic engineering have opened many peoples eyes to the current contradictions we face in agriculture. However, instead of simply working against something negative their NGO has worked to create a positive solution by opening seed banks, educating farmers and much more.

At the core of Navdanya’s work is the idea that it is our inherent duty and responsibility to protect our seed diversity and pass them on to future generations. Vandana Shiva believes that the free exchange of seeds, based on cooperation and reciprocity, has been the basis to maintaining biodiversity as well as food security. Through extensive network of volunteer coordinators all over India Navdanya has helped connect the rural farms to urban areas with creative marketing schemes. Their work is helping thousands of farmers to rediscover traditional practices of seed saving and sharing. The issue of seed saving and loss of agricultural diversity has been directly linked to organic farming, which Navdanya firmly asserts, “is not just a source of safer, healthier, tastier food. It is an answer to rural poverty.”

My time at Navdanya was spent as an informal volunteer/ intern. After working hard to overcome language barriers I grew close to the farm staff and began to enjoy the daily routine of the farm. The Navdanya Biodiversity Farm grows over one thousand varieties of crops (482 of which are varieties of rice). The farm is both a center for biodiversity conservation and a demonstration farm for how to grow organically in India. As is typical on a small, diverse organic farm the work varied greatly each week. Over my first month I weeded rice, made vermicompost piles, worked in the seed bank, planted medicinal plants, organized the seed bank, helped cooking in the kitchen with many traditional grains or ancient recipes, and much more. While language was still a problem I learned a great deal from the staff by working alongside them, constantly asking questions, and insisting on being shown how to do many things on the farm. The only major challenges I faced at the farm were some health issues (with stomach problems and migraines). Also, I often became frustrated with how inefficient and time consuming the work was, but I eventually came to realize that if tasks were made more mechanized or efficient as I originally thought they should be, it meant farmers lost their livelihood and must go to the city to look for work.

My work time was interspersed with time spent interviewing local farmers in the area. From the beginning I knew that the real answers would come from speaking with the actual farmers. It took me a few weeks, but the purpose or focus of my study became clearer as time went on. I performed over 23 farmer interviews in the Dehra Dun area, mostly with organic farmers but also with some chemical farmers. My questions for these farmers centered on seed saving, their history as organic farmers, and the various issues regarding native or traditional varieties. In interviews with Vandana and other leaders at Navdanya I learned about the many reasons of why seed saving was important ranging from the need for resilience in a time of extreme climate change to issues of self sufficiency, agricultural viability based on adaptation, and the ownership of seeds by multinational corporations. While some educated farmers knew these reasons – most simply stated that seeds are life. They were confused as to why I would even ask some of the questions. For many subsistence farmers saving seeds are the only way of survival. If they don’t save seeds they are required to go to the market for them – which many small farmers in India cannot afford.

Numerous farmers stated that the health of their family went down while they grew hybrid crops through chemical farming. They complained of high blood pressure, stomach problems, pain in joints, and even cancer. They tied these ailments to the introduction of new seeds and pesticides through the Green Revolution in the late 1960’s. The farmers stated confidently that their health greatly improved when they switched back to growing organically. Additionally, many farmers spoke at length about how the yield of hybrid varieties of crops was good for the first few years and then steadily declined after that. They were forced into a trap of purchasing more fertilizers each year and buying seeds from the market, as they couldn’t save seeds from the hybrid crops. While it was extremely depressing to hear of all the negative effects of the Green Revolution in this area each farmer I spoke to who had switched back to growing organic with native varieties inspired me greatly.

On top of the health and economic benefits, farmers also spoke passionately about the terrible taste of the new varieties, the
improvement of their soil through organic methods, and the environmental benefits of traditional agriculture. Many interviewees had gotten their seeds from Navdanya at first and now were saving them every year. The farmers shared their seeds with neighbors, began to trade unique varieties, and gave more seeds back to Navdanya that they discovered. Slowly, the culture of cooperation and sharing has begun to flourish again. When Navdanya gives seeds from the seed bank to farmers they don’t ask for money. Instead, they ask that the farmer gives more seeds back at the end of the year or better yet shares them with another farmer. Through this, the traditional varieties of crops native to this area have begun to spread again. The Dehraduni Basmati that so many organic farmers grow in this area was at the center of a fierce legal battle when it was almost patented for its aromatic qualities. Many organic farmers now grow this variety again because it is adapted to their local climate, yields well, and has an excellent taste. The issue of taste is important to even the poor subsistence farmers, many of whom lament the loss of traditional varieties of millets and vegetables that were used in recipes passed down from their grandmothers.

In summary, my interviews with both Navdanya staff and local farmers opened my eyes to many new aspects of the seed saving movement. Never before did I recognize the direct connection between traditional varieties and organic agriculture. Traditional varieties are not only a crucial part of local recipes, cultures, and ceremonies, but they are also adapted to local climate, conditions, and pests. New, hybrid varieties of crops that were introduced through the Green Revolution are developed to produce a large amount of grain on a short plant. While this may sound great it is based on a very simplistic view of agriculture. In reality, when farmers switched to these modern techniques they were not able to get enough straw from the plants because they were bred to be dwarf varieties. In turn, they weren’t able to feed their cows and many families lost their source of milk, fertilizer, and even plowing. Instead of growing crops that were evolved to grow in cooperation with other diverse species (like millets growing with pulses), the new varieties could only be grown alone and were bred to rely on heavy inputs of nitrogen fertilizer. If one used the new varieties without chemical fertilizers they got no result. The hybrid varieties are inherently linked to chemical inputs and irrigation.

Farmers traditionally grew a different rice variety for every small microclimate or soil condition. Through the Green Revolution scientists introduced one variety for all of India that was not adapted to local conditions. While modern farming may produce more grain per acre, it ignores the whole systems output which traditional farmer relied on. Through traditional practices farmers could grow enough to sustain their families entire nutritional needs. However, in the past 15 years farmers have become reliant on the market and as they give their fields more and more chemicals the crops lose nutritional value and tie farmers into a trap of growing only one crop for sale.

The importance of seed saving is struck home for me by a story told by numerous farmers in this area. Many years ago there was a drought and famine in the Dehra Dun area. During this famine, farmers never touched their stocks of seeds that were saved in their house. These starving farmers could have eaten their seed stock and lived for a few more days. However, they recognized the necessity of saving the seeds for the future and as a result starved to death with bags of grain within their reach. Today, a movement is taking hold that uses these varieties from past generations to reestablish truly sustainable and economically viable agriculture in this region.

After about a month of settling into the routine on the farm of working, doing interviews, reading the many books in the library, cooking with the staff, and learning as much as I could about the native varieties we grew I began to travel and use the Navdanya farm as a base. One short jaunt led me to Hardwar, a holy Hindu city on the banks of the Ganges River. I spent a few days here reflecting on all I had been learning, bathing in the holy Ganga and taking part in ceremonies each morning and evening. Next, I made some connections through Navdanya and went to Punjab for a tour of agriculture in that region.

The beauty of India is how friendly and welcoming so many people are in rural areas. I called Umendra Dutt, the founder of Keti Virasat Mission, to ask about coming to Punjab and two days later one of his staff met us at the train station in the early morning. They had organized a packed five days for us visiting farms and meeting with everyone from small-scale farmers to elite landowners, doctors, lawyers, journalists, and Hindu Saints. Punjab was by far the most intense week of my life. This state in Northern India is a symbol of our current agriculture crisis and a shocking example of the various contradictions of modernization. Punjab is billed as the most developed, modern, and progressive state in India. In turn, it has a proportionally larger amount of tractors, pesticides, and fertilizers than any other region in India. Basically, Punjab is American agriculture in India. While it may sound great when you speak to representatives from chemical companies, the reality in Punjab is much more grim. In Punjab, there are “cancer villages” in which over 30% of the villagers have cancers. There is also a “cancer train” that takes hundreds of villagers from Bhatinda to local hospitals each day.

The land of five rivers has now complete contamination of its waterways and groundwater. There are over 3,712 villages in Punjab that face serious problems with their drinking water. As a result, women’s breast milk has become toxic. In one village where we stayed a woman had three babies who died when she fed them her breast milk. Later, she had two more babies, fed them formula and they all survived. Women are advised not to use their breast milk and it has been deemed a toxic substance in this region. Infertility and breast cancer also strikes the women of Punjab disproportionately. Suicides have plagued debt-ridden farmers in this area, as in other “advanced” parts of India. In the past five years over 2,500 suicides in India have been linked to the introduction of new genetically engineered seeds. Many people we spoke to in Punjab told us stories of farmers who had committed suicide in their region after becoming locked in debt trap as a result of expensive new seeds and their associated fertilizers and pesticides. The amount of depressing information we heard in Punjab ranging from massive fish kills to deformed children is enough to convince me that there is no hope for agriculture in this world. However, the group that was facilitating our stay in Punjab provided an immense amount of hope and inspiration.

Keti Virasat Mission (KVM) is different from Navdanya in the sense that they are a movement and not an NGO. While the two groups are working on similar work the staff that we traveled with and learned from in Punjab were insistent that their organization was very different. They wanted no hierarchy in their movement, no outside experts helping the poor beneficiaries (farmers), and no fancy offices. While I found some of their critiques against Navdanya a bit harsh, I was blown away by the dedication of the staff and the sheer number and diversity of people involved in this movement. Ajay, one of the staff who facilitated our tour, had given up a high paying job as a scientist to work for KVM. He had to move out of his house, give up all the luxuries he enjoyed, and dedicate himself fully to the cause of food security and freedom for farmers in Punjab. KVM only has 3 paid staff, which are all paid very modestly and work day and night in a tiny office with one computer and a small kitchen/bathroom. I have never met such dedicated people in my life. As a result of their passion coupled with the realization of many people in Punjab that things can’t continue on the current path the movement has spread to thousands throughout the state.

KVM is passionately farmer centered and wants to simply provide the spark and the opportunity for farmers to organize themselves. At first, I found Umendragi (the founder) a bit too extreme as he spoke about how this is as a war and we all must be prepared to fight and die for our seed and farmer freedom. However, after touring Punjab I no longer felt he was extreme. In the face of so much power, corruption, pollution, and despair one needs to be passionate and a bit extreme. Many we spoke to agree with Umendragi that the lives and environment in Punjab has been destroyed by the introduction of the green revolution and now the introduction of biotechnology. In different ways everyone from lawyers to respected professors and subsistence farmer eloquently explained to us how the culture of cooperation, brotherhood, and self reliance that once existed in Punjab has turned into a criminalization of agriculture, a loss of cultures and traditions, and a state of true despair. Keti Virasat Mission is not only a movement for traditional agriculture – it is a non-violent fight against the control of Multi-National Corporations into agriculture. KVM is a battle to restore agriculture as a way of life in Punjab: a way of life that promotes self-sufficiency, health, and dignity. To see such a positive and successful movement rising out of a state of such pollution and disease provides me more hope than anything else I have seen or experienced in my life.

While every movement has problems, KVM showed me a model that I agree with most. During our week in Punjab we had a personal driver and stayed with a different family of farmers each night. As a result, we got to see an incredible diversity of farms and people in a short time. One day we toured a 400-acre farm (massive for India) that had changed entirely over to natural farming. The elite family had been the most progressive people in the area in the 1960’s and the first to use chemicals. Now, despite sharp criticism from the neighbors they have changed entirely back to natural farming and are helping other smaller farmers in the area to follow. One man we stayed with gave up his high paying job in the city as a chemical engineer to change the family farm to natural farming after his dad died of cancer (linked to pesticide contamination). These are just a few of the countless stories we were exposed to in Punjab.

I would like to tell just one more experience in Punjab. For the rest of my life I will remember walking through the cotton fields as the sun set on the horizon. As far as the eye could see lay genetically engineered cotton. In Punjab this BT cotton has been linked to many allergies and large-scale sheep death. There has actually been an increase in chemicals since its introduction. As we walked through the fields dozens of laborers with crude backpacks sprayed pesticides all around us. The smell hung heavy in the air. It burned my nostrils and itched the inside of my throat. As the wind blew, it brought the pesticides onto us, coating our clothes and burning my eyes. For a few minutes I felt what it was like to be those poor laborers as they sprayed with no protection at all. We finally reached an organic farm we had been walking to find. While the farm still received many pesticides from its surrounding fields, this valiant effort was extremely symbolic for me. The man whose farm it was said he was facing harsh attack from all his neighbors and even family. Despite this, he fought on and in the middle of this desert of genetically engineered cotton and heavy pesticides lay his biodiverse field filled with traditional varieties of cotton, pulses, millets, and vegetables. His farm represents a beacon of hope for me and sums up my Punjab experience.

Even in the center of the worst agricultural conditions lay many passionate farmers who are changing back to natural methods. Thousands of doctors, lawyers, journalists, professors, and all walks of life support them. Seed banks are seen as a way of fighting the multi-national corporations in their own language. Biodiversity is restoring farmer’s livelihood. The sociological aspect of agriculture is ever present in Punjab where I saw first hand that the largest yield per acre is not what actually benefits society. Even professors in this region have begun to view farmers as gods and necessary leaders of a paradigm shift in society. Most importantly, so many people we talked to were confident they would win. They see cancer in their family and taste pesticides as they walk in their village, but still feel confident that this movement will transform Punjab away from its current path of “progress” into a state of natural farming in which the rural economy is valued and healthy food is available for all.

One journalist told me that Punjab is a symbol for the failure of modernization as the land of 5 rivers has turned into a polluted desert. However, I also believe it is a symbol of hope and light in this world. Farmers are showing they can get greater yields, make more profit, and improve their families’ health without any reliance on external seeds or chemical inputs. They are giving up the chemical dependent monoculture pushed on them by corporations and returning to a biodiverse and self-reliant system. Once again traditional varieties are at the center of this struggle. However, the seeds are part of a much larger struggle that affects all aspects of life in the rural areas. There is a lot we can learn from Punjab!

After Punjab I spent a few days back at the Navdanya farm helping with a coordinator meeting and beginning to harvest rice. Next, I went with Balbir (one of the Navdanya coordinators) to his village in the Garwhal region of the Himalayas. On this jaunt language was a bit more a problem, as we did not have anyone who spoke fluent English. However, this experience showed me the exact opposite of Punjab and provided a different view of the seed saving movement. Travel to the hills is crazy and it took us two days to travel about 150 miles! Nonetheless, along the way we met with farmers, stopped for lunch in peoples homes, and some huge apple grower gave me about 200 free apples because I was from America and his apple trees are from America. The part of the hills where we went is very remote (no road- must scramble up and down steep slopes to get anywhere). There is no way I can describe in words how beautiful it was. Balbir put us up in his home, fed us incredible meals and about 18 teas a day. Each day we went on long walks to get to different villages and farms. This area is in a protected sanctuary and still lives very traditionally. There are no large machines whatsoever. All homes are built from trees nearby and are completely hand built with small tools. While in Punjab they had to work vey hard to find any traditional varieties of seeds that were left, here the seed saving culture was still very much intact. Every family has an intricately carved wooden seed bank that is made from a type of pine that repels pests. The seed banks dug into the earth so they are always cool. We probably saw 50 seed banks in our week there. Many farmers were so happy to meet another foreigner and pushed me to accept seeds, which they were so proud of. When I asked where the seeds came from, many would say they came from their grandfathers grandfathers grandfather. In this area they still grow different varieties based on soil conditions, ceremonies, and certain recipes. For instance, barley is a sacred crop and is used in numerous pujas (prayers). Jangora, a type of millet, is grown for its drought tolerance and is made into an excellent sweet called kher for important event. Amazingly, they have declared their region free from genetically modified food and almost the entire region is organic. Basically it was spectacular scenery (waterfalls, lush hills, diverse farms), friendly people, good food, and a glimpse into what has been lost in much of the world.

After this I took part in part of a meditation retreat, but became ill in the middle and returned to the Navdanya farm. I recovered here for a few days and helped with the harvesting of some herbs and the early rice. Next, I went to a different area of Garwhal to meet with a man who I had who numerous people in Punjab suggested was crucial to meet. Vijay Jardhari is known to many as the father of the seed saving movement in India. Once again I called him and two days later met him at his house. Vijay has an amazing story that someone should write a book on. He spoke decent English, but there was still some trouble communicating between us at times. Vijay returned from his work as a chipko activist protecting the forests of the Himalayas in the 1970’s to find the green revolution moving into his peaceful region of the hills. When Vijay and others began to recognize how this new agriculture would destroy their village they went on numerous foot marches for months throughout the entire Himalayan region. During the marches they collected over 300 types of beans, numerous varieties of amaranth and millets, and 200 types of rice. Along the way they traded seeds with farmers, gathered data, and taught people about the importance of keeping their traditional agriculture.

Vijay is a calm, yet passionate follower of Ghandi. Many people in his region showed me how they had switched back to the traditional ways of agriculture with Vijay’s help. Traditionally this region grows "baranaja" – a mix of twelve complementary crops in one field. The crops are adapted to grow well with each other and provide all the sustenance needs for a family – from calcium to protein. A well-known folk singer was back visiting his family in the village and even sung a song for me that he wrote about baranaja. Unfortunately, Vijay and his coworkers also have some animosity towards Navdanya and Vandana Shiva. I believe all their complaints are valid but wish we could all work together on this common issue. In the end, my visit to Vijay’s area gave me a glimpse of another inspiring grass roots movement that links seed saving to women’s rights and the livelihood of rural farmers. Vijay’s group also protects the local forest communally by appointing villagers to various roles and making rules for use that everyone agrees on. The forest in their region look better than all the others around and villagers spent two days carrying buckets of water to put out the fire as forests burned all around them. Villagers in these hill areas are directly connected to their natural environment and need their traditional varieties of food crops to continue peacefully coexisting in these fragile ecosystems.

After leaving the hills I traveled back to Delhi to attend a conference on “The Future of Food, GMO’s, Climate Change, and Food Security.” This conference provided the intellectual knowledge that went hand in hand with so much that I had directly seen and experienced over the past month. There were over 40 speakers at the conference ranging from Indian farmers to politicians, Canadian farmers, and policy analysts in the US, scientists, and much more. I learned an incredible amount in these few days about the science behind genetic engineering, the political and social reasons for stopping corporate ownership of seeds, and the various health effects of genetically engineered crops. I also learned how the farms, which I had been visiting for months, now were also being proven through extensive data to have a great impact on climate change. Many speakers advocated the need for biodiversity as we enter a time of unpredictable weather. It was tough sitting for two days straight after so much traveling and work, but I am glad to have heard from all the incredible, well-respected speakers.

Next I returned to the Navdanya farm for a four-day conference on the same topic. Many of the same speakers were there, but not they got to speak for longer and we had many planning and action meetings as well. I feel so lucky to be able to spend time with these authors, scientists, and activists that I had heard so much about in the past. The most inspiring speaker for me was Percy Schmeisser. Percy became famous after he refused to give in to Monsanto’s lawsuit against him. In the past five years Monsanto has sued hundreds of farmers in North America, alleging that they used Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds without permission. Most farmers cant afford court costs and settle out of court with Monsanto even though they did nothing wrong. Percy decided to fight this injustice and stand up to these fear tactics. He saw how Monsanto was working to control all the seeds in Canada and wouldn’t let his family be bullied. After nearly 10 years of lawsuits, numerous threats of violence and intimidation, and over $500,000 dollars Percy won a small victory against Monsanto. Unfortunately, in his first case a Supreme Court Judge ruled that it didn’t matter how Monsanto’s seed or gene blew into his field, Monsanto now owns that crop as a result of their patent. Percy and his wife have now dedicated their life to traveling the world and raising awareness about the harms of genetic engineering and the way Monsanto is trying to control the food supply. He showed us ample documentation and information of the failure of genetic engineering, the increase use in chemicals, the decrease in yield, and the horrific things that so many farmers in North America have had to put up with. His story is frightening and eye opening. It made me ponder once again how these lessons and issues of seed saving and loss of control over our seeds can be applied to North America. The conference was a very educational experience and I stayed a few days after to help with the rice harvest on the farm.

I am now in Mumbai and it is the total opposite of everything else I have experienced the past three months. For four days I have been living the life of an elite Ex-Pat in Mumbai. In many ways it truly disgusts and angers me, but I also think it is very beneficial to try and fit in with this totally different culture. I think that seeing this other side of India, the "new India", is a necessary experience and makes me realize that the whole world isn’t like the people I have been with the past few months. Instead of poor farmers, peacefully subsisting off the land I have now been socializing with stock traders, sales analysts, and various other elites. The issue of India's extremes that I have pondered so many times the past few months is hammered home in Mumbai. Literally, the amount that these guys dropped in one night for drinks at an elite club we went to is more than most of my friends makes for three years working on the Navdanya farm. This fact alone is truly shocking. Additionally, the amount the guy I am staying with pays in rent is more money that most people in rural India will ever see in their lives (his monthly rent approximately equals a 5 year salary for many people I worked with).

This shocking divide brings up many challenging questions for me - but most importantly hammers home the fact that in my life I want to live simply (I only need the basics and the rest should be shared with others). There are many things about the wealthy urban lifestyle that I am inherently opposed to. For instance, why is one life valued over another? Why do so many struggle for the bare necessities of life on the street while others waste an exorbitant amount of food and resources? Why do we have so many more privileges as a white person?

Despite these challenging contradictions, I have accepted Mumbai and enjoyed the experience. It has been a good challenge to try and mingle with the businessmen and even the people who help produce the products that are destroying the livelihood of so many people I lived with. I have a skill to adapt to every situation, so I somehow fit in with these people and drank ridiculously expensive drinks at swanky clubs that they bribed their way in. I tailored my description of my research so they could understand.

Additionally, I have gotten some business done and have wondered the streets of Mumbai - taking in the sights and sounds. I spent a lot of time at the beach in Mumbai last night. This beach makes the New Jersey shore seem like a Caribbean island. The water is toxic, there is barely enough room to move through the crowds, and there is litter strewn everywhere. Nonetheless, it is a truly beautiful sight. The smell of corn roasting on fires mixes with the smell of fried samosas. The bright colors of women’s saris swirl together in the wind to create an incredible mosaic that even the most talented painter could not depict. Hawkers sell every strange thing you could imagine- including balloons the size of a human (not kidding - one of the strangest sights in India). So, I did people watching through the crowd for hours, felt the cooling breeze, ate some corn, and got to watch part of an elaborate traditional singing and dancing routine. As is expected in the world of extremes (AKA India) right next to this passionate religious performance a fight broke out and a man was beating a woman terribly. I felt horrible just watching this happen so I jumped in and pulled the man off her. Then, many Indians got worried and dragged me away from him and made me leave - they were afraid a foreigner would get hurt. After watching the fight continue I gave up and meandered towards the toxic ocean and sea of colorful bodies.

Now, I am kind of getting ready to leave India today and I have mixed feelings. I am excited to be in Italy with Tim, but also surprisingly sad to leave this beautiful, vibrant country that has shown me so much! I cant believe three months has gone by. Time has flown the past month or two, but also I could write thousands of pages just on my experiences here. Some day when I have more time, I would love to tell you all some ridiculous stories from the urban life here, teach you just a little of the immense amount I learned at the conferences I attended, or tell you the story about how traditional varieties of rice adapted to salt pan and flood helped restore Orissa’s agriculture after the tsunami.

This trip is impossible to sum up as I have already filled two journals with my notes and thoughts. In some ways it feels good to know that I have experiences in my life that no one else even knows about. However, I also wish I could share these experiences with people more easily! Today, I will say goodbye to India with a mix of deep sadness, gratitude, and joy that I am leaving some of the retched sights. Time for Italy! Ciao!


HellaD said...

Wow, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us in such a personal way.

Your pictures are great to, I am looking forward to hearing more of your experiences.

I can't believe that those farmers died with bags of rice under their beds.

aytowler said...

adam, you never cease to amaze me

Anonymous said...

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Industrial Society is destroying necessary things [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land] for making unnecessary things [consumer goods].

"Growth Rate" - "Economy Rate" - "GDP"

These are figures of "Ecocide".
These are figures of "crimes against Nature".
These are figures of "destruction of Ecosystems".
These are figures of "Insanity, Abnormality and Criminality".

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land].

Destroy the system that has killed all ecosystems.

Destroy the society that plunders, exploits and kills earth 365 days of the year and then celebrates Earth Day.

Chief Seattle of the Indian Tribe had warned the destroyers of ecosystems way back in 1854 :

Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then will you realize that you cannot eat money.

To read the complete article please follow any of these links.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Delhi, India