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Thursday, November 12,2009

Borlaug didn’t do GMOs

Letters, Week of Nov. 12

Transition for all people

(Re: “Planet of insects,” cover story, Oct. 22.) Thank you for the article about relocalization, community, skill-building and energy independence. I am grateful to see the philosophies and practices of Transition Colorado featured in the Boulder Weekly. I was even more excitedto see the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center included in this piece.

One of the reasons I so appreciate the “Transition Movement” is because of its potential agency for social justice. At the same time I also question how the means and ends of this “movement” assemble barriers and etch creases of marginalization, structurally — even if unintentionally — supporting injustice by focusing on the needs of privileged peoples and neglecting those needs, and skills, of more underprivileged peoples. These needs and skills are not nonexistent — they are silenced and made invisible.

What role does Transition play in this silencing, what role would it like to play, and what role does it need to play? I read a lot of words such as “community” and “basic human connections,” but nothing of power, privilege, domination and oppression. Does Transition think “sharing pie” dissolves such deeply rooted and harmful realities? Is avoidance an option? For whom?

I would love to see Transition Colorado host anti-racism trainings and bystander intervention trainings. That seems like the kind of re-skilling we need here in Boulder! Are Transition Communities safe or hostile for people of color, LGBTQI folk? And what about the rights and needs of undocumented peoples? (Note to the writers and editors: careful of your usage of the word “citizens.” Do you mean to exclude residents and the 12 million undocumented people in the U.S.?) I cannot see how a “Transition Movement” can function within this country’s broken immigration system.

I am sure many of the readers and hopefully all of the Transition supporters can see the links between agriculture, the food industry — and thus Transition’s focus of local food and economic self-sufficiency — and immigrant rights. We are all connected to these faulty and harmful policies by what we put in our mouths, but changing what and how we eat will not by itself change the lives of those invisibilized and dehumanized. Is “Transition” (the verb) feasible without these changes? What conditions prevent participation? And again, what is Transition’s role in these conditions?

I would like to see orientations towards freedom, justice, liberty and equality — such as active movement for and actualization of changes in federal immigration policy and public opinion — directly included in the rhetoric and activities of Transition. What about partnering with an organization such as Reform Immigration for America? Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition? Intercambio de Comunidades? ¿Hablan español? Ever consider collaborating with Moving to End Sexual Assault or Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence?

I am critical because I am supportive — it would be quite easy for me to suffocate word limits crying within the dysfunctions and crises Transition passionately toils to heal, exalting praises for the already vibrant efforts of the principles and people of the “movement,” reiterating what is already made known. At this point, however, I must respect my internal erk that whizzes when I hear, read or talk about anything “Transition,” voicing this shared and potentially ignorant aversion as a petition for organizational and collective questioning. I also understand that this organization is probably, like most, understaffed and underfunded, which poses challenges for outreach and integration but is no excuse for such a limited pulse. While you may hold the values of social and environmental justice, we have yet to overtly see these values demonstrated or given priority. In the article, cofounder of Transition Colorado Michael Brownlee mentions freedom — I ask, freedom for whom? Freedom cannot only be an outcome, but must also be fundamental method of the “movement,” do you agree? Of course, one organization can’t address every issue, and at the same time, how and when can we see represented the interconnectedness that you are advocating (in theory)? From the article Brownlee states: “It’s [Transition Colorado] a catalytic force in the community to inspire and motivate people to do exactly the kind of things that we’re talking about. You can’t do it for them, but you can provide them some access.” Can you? And can we?

True, as individuals and a community we must take initiative in preference to relying on others — officials, organizations, etc. — to “do things for us” (I hope to be encouraging myself and the public in these statements, not just leaders in the “movement”). My expectation is that Transition as an organization can be, as Brownlee avows, an accessible and conceivably constructive and proactive resource for more holistic and realistic reconnectings, for and with all people. This, as I see it, enables the movement.

Emily Zisette/Boulder

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It is true that Norman Borlaug did use genetic engineering to develop the crops that made the Green Revolution possible -- but only because genetic engineering didn't exist at the time. Borlaug lived long enough to see to advent of GMOs, which he strongly approved of, and explicitly said that had genetic engineering techniques existed in the 1960s he would have embraced them in a heart-beat. He also was not shy about expressing his contempt for the environmentalists who attacked the Green Revolution -- and then went on to attack GMOs.