Letters to the Editor

– K. Rashid Nuri: Making the case for urban agriculture
– Hunter Mabry: Tell McDonnell to commute Paul Powell’s death sentence
– Haresh Daswani: Of walks and meditation
  

K. Rashid Nuri: Making the case for urban agriculture
In his State of the Union address, President Obama enumerated ongoing problems requiring his attention: health care, the economy, job creation, environmental issues and lack of renewable fuels. In doing so, he suggested that increasing agricultural exports would help solve some of these problems.

While export agriculture might indeed help some corporations, it is unlikely to resolve issues directly affecting the public. One thing that would, however, is urban agriculture. While not a panacea, urban agriculture can allay many of the concerns mentioned by the president, and it can do so in several critical ways. 

Our country is now undeniably urban. According to recent demographics, 81 percent of us now live in cities or suburbs. And with so few of us living on farms or in rural areas, our familiarity with the production and source of our food is limited. As an urban organic farmer, I find it amazing that so many chefs, produce managers, restaurateurs and Americans in general remain blithely unaware of the sources of their food. Many have no idea what food looks like coming out of the soil, let alone have an awareness of seasonal fluctuations in fruit and vegetable production.

Implications of this lack of knowledge and involvement in our own food production are immense, affecting all aspects of our life.

Since the dust bowl era of the 1930s and the end of World War II, there has been an effort by government and corporate America to industrialize American agriculture. There has been an emphasis on efficiency and quantity rather than on growing quality food and protecting natural resources. Agriculture is estimated to represent approximately 20 percent to 25 percent of the U.S. annual energy budget, and as much as 40 percent of that energy goes towards production of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. Chemical-based growth stimulants produce large quantities of food at the expense of the minerals, vitamins and trace elements that create flavor and nutrition. Evidence of the poor quality of our food can be seen in rising rates of obesity, vitamin deficiencies and food-borne illnesses.

Sadly, the major victim of industrial agriculture is the American public. We are subjected to more chemicals in food, more additives in food products and massive advertising campaigns for these products, and until recently were offered few healthy alternatives.

We Americans are in the early stages of reclaiming our food sovereignty. This is evidenced by the fast-growing organic sector in agriculture, the advent of urban agriculture initiatives and the increased numbers of farmers markets found in urban areas everywhere.

All across the nation, urban farmers are growing crops on vacant lots, in abandoned fields, in greenhouses, on balconies, by schools, in prison yards, in nursing homes and in countless other creative and engaging places. These urban growing fields can be privately owned, formed as cooperatives, as neighborhood organizations, in collaboration with universities or as partners with city and county governments. Options are endless. Urban America is beginning to wake up and feed itself.

Urban agriculture can play a critical role in reversing many negative aspects of industrial agriculture. Urban farming enhances the health of metropolitan residents, creates “green” jobs, produces affordable locally grown organic fruits and vegetables; teaches people to grow their own foods; reconnects people to their food and the land; and strengthens the environment through reduced fossil fuel dependence and carbon sequestration.

The source of our food is an abstract concept for most of us. But this is changing. More and more people are exploring the supply chain that connects the production of their food to its final consumption. People are returning to the earth as they learn that urban gardens provide benefits beyond good food. This includes economic savings, environmental improvement, lifestyle enhancement, increased exercise and family and community bonding.

President Obama mentioned increasing agricultural exports, but also said that First Lady Michelle Obama would continue her work on problems associated with child obesity. Ironically, the industrial agriculture the president supports is directly connected to child obesity. Industrial agriculture and the lack of personal involvement in food production are leading factors causing our people to become obese and less healthy.

The time has come for we Americans to reclaim our agricultural heritage. Participating in urban agriculture would be a major step in that direction.

– K. Rashid Nuri is director of the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture.

 

Hunter Mabry: Tell McDonnell to commute Paul Powell’s death sentence
Virginia is scheduled to carry out its 106th execution on March 18th. It would be a miscarriage of justice for Virginians to permit this to happen.

There is no doubt that Paul Powell committed a horrible crime — a crime for which he could have been given a sentence of up to life imprisonment or, if aggravating factors were found, the death penalty.

But in its zeal to prove the presence of aggravating factors, the prosecution introduced false evidence that showed Powell guilty of two prior crimes of murder when in fact Powell had been cleared of those charges. Additionally, the prosecution also told the court that this evidence had been “certified” when in fact it was uncertified.

It shakes the confidence of Virginians in our criminal justice system when a jury’s death sentence rests on serious false evidence and a false claim introduced by the Government. Such action by the prosecution should not be tolerated.

Unfortunately, the Virginia Supreme Court has never reviewed all of the false evidences in this case. When four out of seven Justices for this case upheld the lower court when reviewing only partial evidence, the other three Justices wrote a vigorous dissent: “such a serious mistake in a capital case may well cause the public to question whether our courts adequately ensure the fair application of the death penalty statue.”

In view of the above, Powell’s sentence should be commuted to life in prison without parole.

As the case now stands, the only person having authority to commute Powell’s sentence is the governor, who opposed Powell’s attempts to correct the serious errors made by the prosecution.

Please contact Gov. Robert McDonnell and request him to commute Powell’s sentence to life in prison without parole. You can contact Gov. McDonnell at P.O. Box 1475, Richmond, VA 23218 or 804.786.2211 or Fax: 804.371.6351 or by email at www.governor.virginia.gov/TheAdministration/contactGovernor.cfm.

– Hunter Mabry, Waynesboro

 

Haresh Daswani: Of walks and meditation
One of the most important aspects of decision making has been to keep a calm mind. The advent of many distractions have kept us from being able to sit in peace and review our decisions, the issues, and formulate solutions. But it also goes beyond with us a needing constant general reflective state. We need to be able to reflect to be able to better govern ourselves and the situation.

The most important and readily available method would be meditation. It is important to keep ourselves in a quiet and comfortable room or environment, with dim and cozy lights, either silent or with some simple meditation music, and either keep silence or chant a mantra that would have its effects designed for what we are looking for. Meditation has been very effective in spirituality, mental peace, and helping compassion. It has been noted through several tests that those who meditate are generally happier and healthier. A happy mind keeps a healthier body.

Meditation too, is very difficult, clouded minds prohibit one from being able to let go and focus. It is very difficult for a novice to immediately meditate if there is a lot of mental burden being carried. Assistance is greatly encouraged from proper masters who can guide the student towards intended peace.

Another effective system of meditation has actually been walks on the park. Not everyone has been able to appreciate the effect of walking on parks, but the calm state, with right breathing, and its light activity, brings forth meditation. One gets to better appreciate details not seen due to a hectic lifestyle. It is important to pause and smell the flowers. Walks have been known to spark ones creativity and inspiration, with paintings, writings, and even business ideas emanating from a simple walk in the park. The mental calm that is found in walks is found in mediation, with the ultimate focus being on detachment.

Detachment is the key ingredient from mediation and walks. One has to get out of the emotional cloud of the situation and be able to step back and appreciate in a more objective point. Another key aspect is to refresh one’s mind and let in inspiration. A light mind presents ideas on a constant basis.

As one taps into the mental significance of a healthy mind, one then realizes that what the mind thinks, the body will feel. A stress free mind produces less stress for the body. The same applies as one has to ensure that the right diet is taken and a proper lifestyle is followed.

The best part is, none of these activities are taxing. The initial state may be found to be difficult, but the change in lifestyle is not severe. One has to embed such in their habit, making it part of their daily ritual. In time, changes will be felt.

As one leads to the other, and better decisions are made, better consequences can be expected, which thus leads to better achievement of results.


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