The Green Blues Show – Edition 16


The Green Blues Show

In today’s edition of the Green Blues Show: the joys of microbial fermentation — edible alchemists and bacteria join forces. In the little east African nation of Rwanda, the ghosts of hate radio walk. In a crowded Bethlehem neighborhood, Israeli tear gas lingers in the air, leaving no safe space for young or old. And, a curious muscle disorder called dystonia.


England has created a new Ministry of Loneliness. Although George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth might come to mind, loneliness is real. In the UK, it’s considered especially acute. A recent report found that 9 million Britons suffer from loneliness – almost fifteen percent of the population. British Prime Minister Theresa May considers it a public health issue. Who wouldn’t?

Michael Tanner, from the libertarian Cato Institute, doesn’t. Writing for the right-wing National Review Online, Tanner scoffs at the idea that loneliness should be a subject of government concern.

“Government cannot solve every societal problem,” Tanner writes. “Expecting it to do so is a recipe for disaster.”

Vietnamese estuary (David Kattenburg)

Tanner’s arguments are conservative boilerplate. In his view, hunger, homelessness, health care, and – yes, loneliness – can and should be handled at the local level, through volunteerism. The obvious rebuttal is that social problems like loneliness are national in scope and complexity. Loneliness is a public health issue, and volunteerism too haphazard and unreliable a method to effectively address it. By definition, volunteerism is about choosing which people you want to help, and there’s no guarantee that any one human need will attract unpaid, willing workers. Conservatives like to say that volunteers are scared off by government involvement — that if public programs aren’t there, volunteers will step in to fill the need.

This is silly. There’s room for both public and private efforts. Volunteers are always needed to address immediate needs. Hungry children can’t wait for laws and policies to get their daily bread. Nor can loneliness. Let’s hope Theresa May develops a strategy for dealing with both. Her mania for budget cutting has chopped the legs off many of the very community institutions — like public libraries — that are needed to battle loneliness.

But we can take hope knowing that the UK sees loneliness as a serious problem for government to grapple with. Others should as well.


Back in the Middle Ages, alchemists dreamed of turning base metals into gold. These early chemists huddled in damp, cramped, fume-choked labs searching for the universal elixir.

In a bright, fragrant Winnipeg kitchen, a much more modern cook is experimenting with fruits, vegetables and even meat, fermenting them into colourful and healthy foods to eat. Edible Alchemy is the brainchild of Natalie Elizabeth and Alexis Goertz, two farm girls with an endless fascination for friendly microbes. Their endless experimentation with natural fermentation has been showcased in workshops and bacteria bars around the world. Click on the SoundCloud link on top.


Anastase Gahunga at arboretum of National University of Rwanda, Butare. (David Kattenburg)

The 24th anniversary of Rwanda’s hundred-day genocide will soon be upon us. From April to July, 1994, almost a million ethnic Tutsis and their Hutu friends were slaughtered by marauding gangs of Hutu extremists, while the international community stood around wringing its hands. Among the sharpest tools in the hands of the genocidaires – hate radio.  Listen to the story.


Aida and Dheisheh are a pair of refugee camps in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Home to some 21,000 Palestinians, they are among the most crowded urban neighborhoods in the world.

Spent tear gas canisters at peace centre beside Aida camp (David Kattenburg)

Israeli security forces routinely enter both camps, day and night, detaining children and youth and firing off endless rounds of tear gas. According to a recent study by a pair of American researchers, the health consequences of chronic tear gas exposure in Aida and Dheisheh are extensive.

I spoke to one of the authors of the report, Dr. Rohini Haar. Haar is an emergency physician with expertise in human rights. She is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. No Safe Space – Health Consequences of Tear Gas Exposure Among Palestinian Refugees was released this past January by the Human Rights Center of the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Law. Listen to my conversation with Rohini.



In the realm of medical nuisances, mysterious muscle spasms (dystonia is the name of the disorder) are almost as distressful as tear gas, especially if you earn your living playing guitar. Here’s a story about that.

In this edition of the Green Blues Show, music from J.B. Lenoir, Steve Mann, Alexis Korner and Ry Cooder