Green Planet Monitor Podcast


Birtukan Kebede, secretary of Ejere's seed bank (David Kattenburg)

Voices & Stories From a Warm Wet Planet

GPM # 12

Back in the 1960s, at the height of the Vietnam War, American artist Lorraine Schneider created a poster for a group called Another Mother For Peace. Intertwined in the leaves and petals of a black sunflower, splashed in black against an electric yellow background, these famous words:

“War is not healthy for children and other living things.”

US Navy F-14 Tomcat over Kuwait (US Naval Institute Archives)

War, as it happens, isn’t healthy for Earth’s climate system either. The connections between permanent war and climate breakdown aren’t something that gets discussed at global climate conferences, or in the media.

It is a subject of interest for the US-antiwar group CODEPINK.

I talked about CODEPINK’s Climate Crisis and Militarism campaign with their co-founder Medea Benjamin.

Listen to our conversation. Click on the audio link on the top of this post, or go here.

Or watch Medea and I here:

In the early twentieth century, Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov identified Ethiopia as a cradle of crop diversity. Several strains of wheat, barley, sorghum, millet, flax and coffee were born there.

Ethiopia is also one of the world’s great “centers of plant diversification,” spawning scores of unique varieties, renowned for their resistance to disease and drought. Women farmers have played a leading role in selecting these hardy strains.

Birtukan Kebede shows off some prize wheat grains (David Kattenburg)

Ironically – given its marginal reputation among nations – Ethiopia’s seed wealth has become indispensable to the world. For the past few decades, a fungal crop disease has been spreading around the planet, threatening global human security like Covid never did. The thought of national wheat crops being wiped out – in developed and non-developed countries alike – has agronomists running to places like Ethiopia in search of disease and climate change-resistant varieties.

This is where the central Ethiopian town of Ejere fits in. Ejere farmers are storing their best performing seeds in a bank of their own.

Listen to this story. Click on the audio link on the top of this post, or go here.

Seed bank, Ejere, Ethiopia (David Kattenburg)

Balata refugee camp sits on the eastern edge of the Palestinian city of Nablus. Home to 30,000 Palestinians who were expelled from their homes during Israel’s 1947-48 war of conquest, Balata is routinely invaded by Israeli soldiers seeking to root out what they call “terrorists.”

Earlier this month, three young men were gunned down in the course of a raid on the camp by 200 heavily armed soldiers. Several Palestinian dwellings were blown up, and dozens were injured.

According to Israeli media, a Palestinian ambulance was blocked from entering the area – in flagrant breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The raid was reported here and here and here.

In preparation for their raid, hours earlier, Israeli soldiers disguised as Palestinians commandeered homes in the vicinity of their target, so that snipers could be placed on their rooftops.

I learned about the incursion in an email to the Ottawa Citizen, forwarded to me by its author, a gentleman named Peter Larson.

“The ongoing expansion of Israel’s footprint in the West Bank,” Larson wrote, “and its violent repression of Palestinian resistance to that expansion, deserves to be brought to Canadian public attention. I am sorry to say that the Citizen’s silence on this matter makes it easier for Israel to continue to batter the Palestinians without any international repercussions.”

Palestinian youth detained at an Israeli military checkpoint (David Kattenburg).

Ha, I thought. I should speak to Peter about this.

Larson is the Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine, and the author of a weekly online newsletter called CanadaTalksIsraelPalestine. Some of his posts feature video-recorded interviews. This one, with Joel Harden, Member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament for Ottawa Centre, generated lots of heat for Harden.

This one, with former Canadian Ambassador to Israel, Jon Allen, was equally enlightening but much less controversial.

Over the past decade, Peter Larson has also taught a course about the Middle East at Carleton University, and has taken groups of Canadians on tours up and down occupied Palestine, guiding them through the ‘complexities’ of Israel-Palestine’s so-called ‘conflict’.

Listen to our conversation. Click on the audio link on the top of this post or go here.

Or, watch our complete conversation with Peter Larson here:

Thanks to Dan Weisenberger for his wonderful instrumentals in this podcast.