Stephen Browning - Retiring NZ Green Party - Member of Parliament.
This is one of the more important interviews of the last year. I urge you to listen and or download and listen at will. (Tim)
This interview exemplifies Steffan’s courage at talking truth to power as he exposes the sham of what neoliberal agricultural policies are doing to NZ, but he also speaks of some very good grass roots initiatives happening right across our country.
Steffan’s days as an MP are engaged and occupied.
Meeting with meat inspectors - beekeepers as well as the incursions of disease through our biosecurity such as myrtle rust - he says there is always something to do with regard to protecting our environment -
Also, that as NZ is a primary producer of food being isolated from the rest of the world, away from many global diseases that the imperative for us is to have an alert and well funded bio security system. This has not been happening - especially over the previous years of the National Government administration. where today we are battling to deal with numerous incursions - due to these Governmental funding cuts. Though very recently there has been a little more funding - especially to respond to myrtle rust for example. He notes that the focussed staff at biosecurity are overworked and whilst there has been a 70% increase in foot traffic coming through airports and ports, there is not really a commensurate increase in funding.
Myrtle rust is now a growing problem - and yet we still have no national plant control forbidding sending seedlings and plant material anywhere within NZ. At present we are now still on the back foot in dealing with these new diseases.
It being imperative that we protect our country’s natural integrity and biodiversity.
However the main two projects that are resting with Stephen is around glyphosate and the Country of Origin - the Food Labelling Bill. This is a carry over from the petition of 37,000 signatures that ex Green MP Sue Kedgley initiated in 2007 - that was not able to get the ‘cross party support' to make this law. Stephen has made some slight modifications to the bill she originally drafted back then and it is now moving forward.
Steffan said that even the Labour Government in 2007 we’re not going to push it through - then not long after they were out of power they changed their mind (consumer pressure?) or just snatching some Green policy points?
What Steffan finds is that the political acceptance to this has changed markedly because of consumers growing concerns - especially now with the ruling National party allowing it to pass its first reading and go to a select committee. He says that as all parties voted for it - it's a very good omen - with ACT the only party voting against it. Their reason being that they want to make a stand as being ‘always more right than that of National’ our so called centre right - Governing Party.
He says that this Bill’s further progressing - will go through some due processes - but he said it has some interesting ’support’ behind it.
Saying that it should go through, but the window is closing before this general election - however - no matter who is in power - it should pass into Law shortly - so this is a major blessing for food consumers here in NZ.
Steffan mentioned that sometimes the universe does provide and that serendipity sometimes shows up …. listen for the rest of this.
He is also following up on the Food Safety Law Reform Bill within Parliament to get GE Food as well as irradiated food monitored and enforced as intended. Because it has not been! So it's a wait and see situation. Because this food component has not seen the labelling of GE or Irradiated being enforced since 2003.
Steffan asks readers and listeners that of they see a product that has on its label ‘GE or Irradiated’ to contact him … C/- Green Party.
It is a known that GE soy is coming into NZ - a lot of it for animal feed - some going into our bread as well as tofu. Being food for poultry and pigs. This is an ongoing story in itself and need investigating.
Salmon Fish Farming:
Presently salmon farming in the Marlborough Sounds is an increasing ecological problem. There are in some cases too many fish in too smaller confined net area and the fish are defecating to such a degree that it is laying waste to the seabed below. Plus fish are also suffering diseases as well as general production problems due to basically - unhealthy conditions. Like intensive dairy farms they have far too many fish in the one space. So the fish mongers are now wanting to expand into outer lying areas of the Marlborough Sounds where tidal flushes are better, however these are areas that they previously agreed not to go into. (They are wanting to shift the goalposts.)
Steffan notes that the industry is expansionist and every few years wants a bit more and a bit more …
50% of the world’s fish are consumed from fish farms especially in Asia. However the reason that salmon is being farmed is because we have over the years abused the wild salmon industry here in NZ and extracted too many fish that it has not been able to sustain itself.
Here the King salmon farms feed on a mixture of anchovy caught off the South American coast - other fish waste and also animal waste from our freezing works and more and more vegetable protein as it’s cheaper. However this feed mix changes the omega 3 and omega 6 in the makeup off the fish and it is nowhere as good as they suggest it is. Steffan recommends that we look at other South Island salmon companies further south to source more healthier fish.
He states this whole fish farming scenario has been a huge emotional and financial cost to NGO’s and the Marlborough Sounds residents as a result of this particular salmon company. He says that even democracy has been compromised and that we need to be building up and restoring the wild fishery and being majorly conscious of focussing on strong sustainability, instead of saying ‘it’s stuffed’ now let’s move on to the next unsustainable practice …
In NZ organics is growing by 10 -11% a year, however we have no government champions - in that they in many ways come close to sneering at the word ‘organic’. Whereas in Denmark the Government has organic targets and is very supportive of the industry, that they are going to have 14% of their food growing production organic by 2020 - and this is what we need here in NZ. Mandated targets and conscious government enthusiasm. Plus the Danes have included pesticide reduction strategies as well.
Steffan also met with Dutch officials in the Hague and they have some very good initiatives happening in the Netherlands too. As does Germany - but these countries are still using many pesticides as well! Austria is also pushing organics as a new way forward.
The NZ wine industry is working towards 20% organic wine by 2020 - Steffan states that they may not get there, because there is such a proliferation of non organic grapes being produced that is diluting (no pun intended) the sector because of their increasing numbers.
Villa Maria here in NZ, a large family owned business are doing very well in this organic sector and will be 50% organic by 2020.
The so called Sustainable Wine Growing NZ group - Steffan gives them a slap - as dragging the chain and being more words than action. Having a low bar as their target - but Steffan ever the commensurate community activist says that they have done one good thing and that is they now have ‘integrated herbicide management’ - so instead of automatically spraying every 2 weeks they actually monitor and see the need for spraying - before they go about doing it.
But when he recently checked, and they have been around since 2007 - that last year 70% of the whole Marlborough viticulture area - and it is huge - 70% of the surface area including just inside the gate and the headlands - not just under the vines and between the vines - was herbicided in spring as they try and get a little 1 degree or half a degree of frost protection by having bare ground warming up in the sun and that warmth would slightly emanate at night and thus reduce the frost a little more.
But the organic guys don’t do that, yet they still succeed just as well. So there is an outrageous level of glyphosate being sprayed to the degree with have glyphosate resistant rye grass there because they have been spraying it so regularly. So sustainable wine growing is not what it says it is. But he says they are slowly lifting the bar and he applauds them as it is still only by voluntary means. In taking this further Steffan drops a bombshell in relation to the PR that is being pushed out and that it is profoundly unethical. Listen to the interview.
There is good organic growth in the horticulture sector and pipfruit and kiwifruit.
Steffan talks about dairy and the huge price differential between ordinary conventional farming and intentional organic dairy farming. Fonterra’s last public price for organic milk solids was around $9 per kilo whilst the non organic farmers are starting to cheer because their price has crept up to $6 again after being around $4.
But our Minister and successive Ministers (have lacked the vision and courage) to grab this opportunity and get in behind NZ farmers and make farming more profitable at the same time cleaning up the water and sequestering more Co2 out of the atmosphere. Why? Because they are so market infatuated - and market forces will rule. However in Parliament Steffan was able to get National MP Ian McKelvie
the Select Committee chairperson who was keen to look at the ONZ Organic NZ market report that Brendan Hoare prepared and it was very well supported and received at that level of Parliament.
But even today - NZ has no government regulation around the word organic and there is nothing to stop anyone calling anything organic - So here we are 2017 and we still have no legislation - (so you can see why it’s been so difficult for organics to be accepted in the public consciousness because by far the majority of our politicians have no idea of what it signifies - what so ever.
Glyphosate - Monsanto
European Parliament: Green Members of Parliament tested for glyphosate in April 2016.
48 Green Members that took part in a symbolic urine test ahead of the European Parliament vote last month to oppose the EU Commission’s proposal to relicense the controversial toxic substance until 2031.
The inspiration behind what was labelled the #MEPee test was the results of a recent study in Germany which found that 99.6% of people tested were found to have glyphosate residue in their urine. According to ELISA test results from the accredited Biocheck Laboratory in Germany:
The results reveal that every MEP tested has been found to have glyphosate traces in their urine, with the average concentration being 1.73ng/ml. That level is more than 17 times the safe limit for drinking water. The lowest level found among the group was 0.17ng/ml, almost double the safe level.
Now most Greens will be drinking the best quality water, eating organic food and yet this is what is happening. What will this do to our DNA, semen and ovaries over time and future generations and in our babies and infants? Are you asking this question?
Steffan says that Glyphosate is made up of many other chemicals called adjuvants and thickers and spreaders and emulsifiers that go into a formula - some of these will penetrate the waxy cuticle the skin of a leaf - there are others that will make the spray spread evenly and there is a range of different compounds that go into a full formulation and come up with a brand name like ‘Roundup’ from Monsanto.
There are also other surfactants and formulas that are part of this concoction.
In this interview Tim mentioned that he knows of an agricultural professional in Waikato who told him that farmers wanting to clear away grass so as to sow a summer crop. So they will spray their grass with a glyphosate product and after 4 days cows and other animals are allowed to then eat this sprayed grass. In checking with this professional on 26/06/17 it was reaffirmed that some of these cows will be milked and that milk becomes a dairy production commodity - like milk, butter, cheese and milk powder. Hence Tim only sourcing organic milk products since he learnt about this a few years ago.
WeedMaster TS540 is one such product that is on the NZ market. This is what the Directions State:
After application of Weedmaster TS540 a withholding period for grazing stock is not required (except where ragwort is present). However, it is recommended that grazing or cultivating is delayed for 1 day after treatment of annual weeds or 3 days if perennial weeds are present to ensure absorption of Weedmaster TS540
There are 91 glyphosate based herbicide products registered in NZ but according to official information that Steffan has access to, it may only be about 80% of glyphosate products that are out there on the market within NZ.
IARC the International Agency for Research on Cancer says that Glyphosate was probably carcinogenic in humans. http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/MonographVolume112.pdf or see Wiki
Check POEA in Europe it is effectively banned - as one of the adjuvants was so highly toxic in its own regard - let alone as a mixture in the formulation of glyphosate.
Also, Steffan mentions - it must not to be used as a desiccant that is sprayed on crops ahead of harvest. See above
75% of Glyphosate products in NZ have this highly banned toxic POEA adjutant in their sprays and when Steffan asked Nick Smith the Governmental Minister in charge, what herbicide sprays in NZ have it? Nick Smith replied that he cannot allow this information into the public arena - due to commercial considerations!
The EPA the NZ environmental protection authority is now an ‘economic protection authority.’
Listen to how the EPA sent a retired toxicologist to do a glyphosate report and pull apart the strengths and weakness of the IARC report (and because he was retired he had no need to worry about future tenure) - who with his credentials was able to basically fob the report and give Glyphosate a free pass - by stating ‘it fulfilled industry standards’ or words to this effect. Steffan mentioned that the Official Information Act showed that there was some kind of collusion between big business and Government Agencies including the Ministry for Primary Industries as to having edited this report as well.
Yet Steffan stated that he knows scientists here in NZ who counter all the statements that this report uses to get glyphosate off the hook. He is calling for a thorough investigation of the EPA to the full extent of the Law.
This interview goes on to include Methyl Bromide fumigation of export logs at ports.
Steffan talks about the ongoing need for recapture of this gas instead of letting it blow away in the air stream.
This information below gives you an understanding, however due to the scope of this I Tim, as a volunteer doing this by myself am copying off the web information that I trust will give you a greater understanding.
Port’s decision a win for workers and environment. From Scoop.co.nz
The Green Party is applauding the decision by the Ports of Auckland to require total recapture of the toxic gas methyl bromide at the port by the end of the 2017, and says other ports must now follow suit.
Exposure to a gas being used on an industrial scale at Port of Tauranga evidently doubles the risk of contracting motor neurone disease, new research has found.
The revelation states that methyl bromide gas to fumigate logs at the port may pose a health hazard to people in surrounding areas.
Mr Browning said the ports in Tauranga, Whangarei and Napier were "carrying the burden" of methyl bromide fumigation. Fumigators at other ports, including Wellington, recaptured the gas after use so that it could not escape into surrounding areas.
Mr Browning of the Green Party called for a new facility to be built at the port that would allow safer fumigation.
"If it's not methyl bromide it will be something else, so we need recapture," he said. "It can't go on like it is."
Methyl bromide is used to fumigate logs for export. Exposure to the gas, when it’s not safely recaptured, can pose serious risks to people’s health and contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer.
“We’re really pleased by this decision. The Green Party has been campaigning for years alongside workers, community groups and many others to end the exposure of people to this toxic gas," said Green Party pesticide spokesperson Steffan Browning.
“Methyl bromide, if inhaled, can have long-term impacts on the brain, and increase the risk of cancers and neurological issues.
Finally this interview finishes with Steffan telling us about the Security and Intelligence Bill that was pushed through NZ’s Parliament in 2013 under urgency - at the same time that Eric Holder the US Attorney General was in NZ, along with the Attorney General’s of Canada, the UK and Australia along with a contingent of FBI officials - all present in NZ whilst PM John Key railroaded this Law through Parliament without the deeper context of an informed parliamentary and nation wide debate.
Watch this Eye Opening video that can also be also accessed on YouTube.
23/August 2013 in Parliament you said:
"I implore one of the 61 MPs who has previously supported this legislation to change at this vote and allow a full inquiry first. The Government has failed to provide a real justification for this fundamental attack on our democratic rights and freedoms, and the legislation facilitates the legal establishment of a surveillance State in New Zealand".
Steffan finally finishes with some of the highlights of his political career - his love for what he does in the organic world.
He is drawn to hands on projects that people are doing … closing the environmental loop and being so close to the land, with passion and love.
Meeting wonderful people and his love for his family and friends.
This is an important interview to be able to understand the courage and measure of this man. Download and listen, it shows that we as NZers have to be very alert to what is happening in this land of ours.
Never before have we needed a greater range of communication skills to allow us to reconnect as family, community and a global society. To speak authentically and from our heart.
With the media polarisation of society, be it local or global - along with an education system that is constantly needing to encourage our skills in conflict resolution as well as reconciling opposing points of view, how are we going to become a more caring, unified and trustworthy society?
New Zealand is often rated as one of the most peaceful countries in the world and yet has a very high rate of domestic violence and teen suicide -- both indicators that more can be done to give alternatives to beating up on ourselves and each other.
Nonviolent Communication (Also known as “Compassionate Communication”) is one option.
It has been shared in this country and around the world in schools, workplaces, spiritual communities, social change organizations, and public workshops. It helps develop the ability to empathize with ourselves and others, to express ourselves with both authenticity and compassion, and to transform conflicts into creative opportunities to connect even more effectively.
It teaches us how to joyfully reclaim our freedom from "shoulds" and "have to's", discover what truly matters, and to improve relationships with ourselves and others. All of these skills are vital for today’s changing world, where we are increasingly faced with the reality of our interdependence across cultural and political differences.
Though NZers are a polite people, we are often not as forthcoming in speaking our truth because we do not want to hurt other people’s feelings or, are actually fearful of talking truth to power.
However the imperative is: that it’s not about being nice, it's about being real!
We here in this country - especially our men folk are basically a quiet, unemotional people (except when the All Blacks or Yachties are winning) and in general lack the vocabulary to express ourselves emotionally when in a situation that requires both presence, mindfulness and … being vulnerable.
When we embrace Nonviolent Communication we find that there so many more tools to assist us to a deeper quality of our being - being authentic and speaking from our heart - from a space that is not encumbered with anger, frustration or poor self worth.
In our present busy and stressful daily life the imperative is, that we are now able to enlist the methods on NVC - to bring about a deeply felt shift in our response to both life, love and people and open up a new vista on how we approach existence.
Starting with the ‘macro’ big picture the USA versus the Soviet Union (now Russia) if we could deescalate the nuclear tensions then in 1990, why not now - today? Donald Trump has been for it!
Also, on the micro - how are you doing with your relationships with your family, sisters and brothers, or your loved one? Are you stuck and have internal dialogue constantly gnawing away inside, because you find it to difficult to communicate or just lack the assistance in articulating your needs to ‘clear the air?’
From the macro to the micro - to reconciling differing points of view in our living rooms with family - to total frustration with the political system and your local political representative. - how can we de-escalate differences in our daily life?
This is what non violent communication can do …
How do we stop the war in our own heads and also beating up on our own selves and also stop the wars with the people that we love? - our wives, husbands and loved ones?
This naturally includes the work place, in team games and localised groups.
Plus how do we go for what we want and instead of to a place of fear and frustration and focussing on what we don’t want to - how do we go for what we want?
With NVC - Nonviolent Communication - it is a big piece of the how - a way to decouple yourself from conflict and use wise choices and tools to take a step back and then mindfully engage in coming together once again.
Tim mentions that with domestic violence very predominant - much of it due to lacking in able to express oneself intelligently - and by needing a larger vocabulary tool box in which to draw from. Also that having a sense of worth and valuing oneself so that we are not in a constant state of victimhood.
It is very important to being able to articulate and clarify how we feel and also ready to listen. These are not strong points in our society and many are to be found in the male of the species.
Jean mentions she knows of a NVC practitioner who has worked with people who have physically abused their partner and he introduced NVC communication as part of his group intervention with them. This resulted in zero % recidivism rate - which is unheard of.
So how do you get past the thoughts and the blame and so if we are angry at somebody and we go into our ‘habit thought’ it is THEIR fault that I am so unhappy - that we might want to punish them and beat up on them in someway - but that may be a tragic attempt to meet their needs for more happiness or more well being - it’s just not going to get us where we want to be.
Instead we want to teach people - we want to teach ourselves - how to go for what we really want.
So part of the how is to catch ourselves and step back … as to what is our intention here. So do we want to connect or do we want to do the same old patterns of judging and blaming?
It will most probably get us more of the same so the first thing is the zero step - to ask ourselves what is my intention here?
Take a breath and take stock … to reconnect to ourselves - we do it with practice and tuning into our body and self connecting … am I noticing that my muscles are getting tense? Is my voice increasing in volume - i.e - am I shouting … Am I noticing that my voice isn’t getting higher?
Sooooooo, what am I feeling? Scared? Angry? So what am I needing ….? Some peace? Some power? Or a way to step back into well being … and am I at this moment, having power over my own self or am I - at the mercy of my habits - old thought patterns - my habit energies and I might be about to say the same old thing that I have said before … you idiot, why are you doing this … and I am just going to get the same results I’ve gotten before which probably will not be at all beneficial!
So NVC gives us tools as to where to put our intention to get the outcome we really want and to really put our attention to connect with the person that you are committed to - then we are on the same page and then we may have some very different smarties as to what you want to see happen next.
This interview covers many instances of how we can clear old patterns and break new ground in understanding relationships. When partners learn to adeptly articulate their needs and express lovingly and mindfully their needs - play comes into it and repartee and banter can come into it as well.
The importance of all parties agreeing in the spirit of goodwill to find a way forward really allows non violent communication to come into its own where relationships flourish and everyone finds themselves on the same page.
Taking the ‘vibes up’ - communicating their needs - then singing the vibes up again at the end.
Non Violent Communication needs to be a skill that every person leaving school needs to embrace. The need for peaceful relations needs to be championed continuously from the Prime Minister’s office all the way down and across our nation.
He is a Professor of Law and Director, New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law, University of Auckland; Chair, IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law Ethics Specialist Group.
With all the mounting ecological challenges, climate change, melting tundra, ocean acidification etc - that face us today these are finally being acknowledged as the logical symptoms of a disease and Klaus reiterates this - a disease that is permeating our society as a result of economics gone mad.
As an extension of the Chicago school in the 1970’s and then policies by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher we are left with posing the question - who will look after the planetary environment?
That economics having been the main and in many ways the only fundamental agenda over the last 35 - 40 years that we (even ordinary NZers) are realising we are now in deeper trouble. That without factoring urgent ecological solutions and taking action - we are to experience environmental blow-back of increasing proportions.
We have been going backwards over this time especially as we have added another three and half billion souls to the planetary population. In doing so - the web of life ‘Nature’ - that embraces and integrates all the ecosystems that are layered over each other from the micro to the macro have been put under unprecedented stress. All due to the increase in mans dominating nature especially around deforestation and pollution at all levels - that has been so overwhelming that our planet’s biota, natural systems and feedback loops are unable to cope with the rapid changes that are upon us. It’s all happening far too quickly and our biosphere can not adapt fast enough in the time available. Thus, with multiple tipping points being reached the possibility of cascading problems is an extreme urgency that has to be addressed. Biosphere collapse has to be avoided!
Today, business people in general when we sit them down and talk ‘one on one’ they will agree that the commercial sector are grabbing and extracting voraciously from the earth, however when they go back to their corporation they cannot or are unable to initiate change. The main reason being that the business world in general has failed themselves by still being ‘ecological illiterate.’ This being predominant in the extreme in the global political arena as well.
Today the concept of sustainability has so often been distorted, co-opted, and even trivialized by being used without the ‘ecological context’ that gives it its proper meaning. So, it is worthwhile to reflect about what “sustainability" really means.
What is sustained in a sustainable community is not economic growth or competitive advantage, but the entire web of life on which our long-term survival depends. In other words, a sustainable community is designed in such a way that its ways of life, businesses, economy, physical structures, and technologies do not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. It may be also likened to ‘durable prosperity’ - that nature will last ad infinitum.
The first step in this endeavor, naturally, must be to understand how nature sustains life. It turns out that this involves a whole new conception of life. Indeed, such a new conception of life has emerged over the last 30 years. Called ‘The Systems View of Life’ it is grand synthesis of this new understanding of life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=If2Fw0z6uxY
Klaus reviews Western civilisation over the last 3-4,000 years and though we as a Western material culture have ‘seemingly’ benefited hugely from our endeavours we have gradually committed so much ecological and cultural damage - that we are now belatedly realising that there is a limit to growth on a finite ecological - planetary system - that we are now teetering on overhang.
When we go back to Greece the word oikos means household and nomos means management. Oikonomos, economy, is thus - those things concerning the management of the house or home as on our ‘home' planet - earth. Note that eco for ecology and economics also have the same root prefix.
Thinking in terms of relationships is crucial for ecology, because ecology —
(as mentioned above - derived from oikos) is the science of the relationships among various members of the Earth Household. Many indigenous cultures embody profound ecological awareness and think of nature in terms of relationships and patterns.
Looking at what the Western model has brought to the world.
Dualism: Can be seen as another Western construct.
The separation between the human sphere and the natural sphere. Where once we were connected to the earth - the wind whispered, the trees sighed, the brook gurgled and oneness within nature permeated much of life from as far back as neolithic times. We were embedded in natural forces.
That over time the academic Greeks started to quantify and measure and objectify things and dualism and ‘separation’ gradually came into being. We put up walls and insulated and isolated ourselves from the environment.
Anthropocentric: human centeredness - that we can measure everything through the lenses of human experience and that we only look at the environment for its usefulness.
Materialism: the predominance of measuring any reality in the terms of matter as against energy or spirit - or the intangible. Having things and measuring success by ‘owning’ things and stacking them up all around us.
Atomism: and our modern science where we are very proud “knowing all about very little and losing the ability to learn a little about everything” … A shift from a more general understanding to more precise expertise - and thus not seeing the larger context. Locked into reductionism and reducing everything down to the mini particle and eventual invisible energy packets.
Greed: when individuals and materialism come together and the so called ‘enlightenment’ - celebrating the idea of individual freedom - another European invention - (has a lot of good things going for it - like human rights and even democracy and so forth) - the dark side is individualism that came into being and - taking it all - with no limits becoming a norm. This translates that one does not have a sense of collective interdependence and responsibilities anymore - and when you combine these with capitalism and materialism we see the 001% of the 1% express what they are doing at the top of the power structures of today.
This is what we have today. We have a great deal of separation - living in buildings doing our best to experience some sort of community yet people have in many ways - just become consumers rather than citizens.
Economism: that we measure everything through the lens of economic cost benefit analysis - time is money - be it Local or Central government. How much is that worth? How much did you win, how much did you lose? My net worth is ………..
Add up the 1st letters of these 6 words and they Equal = DAMAGE
This European experience is totally out of step of non European cultures thus the need to heal our planetary systems and be more open to listen ….
We need to become citizens of the earth see ourselves as brother and sisters with other parts of our planet. We are in this together - so we need to know what is it like to articulate what it is to be human on this - our beautiful planet earth.
The necessity now is to have a Nationwide Conversation and talk about long term strategies.
We are all integrated within the web of life - even if we do not realise it - and with all biota. However, with climate change upon us and the invisible membrane of our atmosphere that envelope’s our planet as the only barrier between us and deep space.
The imperative is to understand we are together - breathing in and out - this invisible barrier that is fundamental to our survival as a species. As Chief Seattle the American First Nation medicine man stated “whatever we do to the web of life - we do to ourselves.”
That we as humanity need to understand what the ‘global commons’ is and then how to honour it and respectfully work with it. This is when we learn to become ‘Ecologically Literate.’
Having enticed Helen Bayes into the studio, this interview covers not only the story of these staunch seniors, but also explains something of Quakers, and their peace testimony.
As part of Peace Convergence 2015 'Quaker Grannies for Peace' set up a tea table blockading the access road to Samuel Hill / Shoalwater Bay military base, which is used for the Talisman Sabre military exercises.
(Talisman Sabre is a biennial joint Australia-United States military exercise. It involves joint exercises performed by the Australian Defence Force and the United States Military across six locations in northern and central Australia, the Coral Sea, and in Honolulu, Denver, and Suffolk, Va., though the bulk of the exercises are concentrated at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area, and other locations in northern and central Australia.)
Grandmother of thirteen, Helen Bayes explains why they would protest this: "Our Quaker peace testimony from 1661 says 'We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons for any end or under any pretence whatsoever.”
The grannies set up a table and chairs and prepared tea and cake in order to engage in dialogue with military personnel.
"Negotiation is not currently part of the war rehearsals, so we are drawing attention to this missing element," said Helen, " Yet it essential to achieve peace."
The Quaker Grannies said they came "with the conviction that a world of increasingly destructive weaponry threatens our continued existence and that nonviolent strategies are essential to our survival".
After being arrested by military police and handed over to local police, the Grannies were convicted, on July 14, 2015, of trespass, and fined $500 each, with no conviction recorded.
In 2016 “Quaker Grannies for Peace” set up breakfast on the road to Pine Gap, and invited military personnel arriving for work at the base to sit down with them.
The action was one of a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the secret US military facility at Pine Gap, by groups advocating for the base’s closure.
Founder of the Quaker Grannies Helen Bayes said: “We are asking Australians whether it is appropriate for a foreign country to be operating a secret facility with no transparency on Australian soil; a base that may well be implicating Australians in wars that our government has not entered into.”
Located half-an-hour's drive south-west of Alice Springs, Pine Gap is one of Australia's most secret sites. It collects various kinds of data from the Asia Pacific and the Middle East, including targeting data for American drone operations and assassinations.
Partly run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Pine Gap is a key contributor to the global surveillance network ECHELON. (New Zealand’s Waihopai Spy Base is also a part of ECHILON, or Five Eyes. It is a secure communication facility, located near Blenheim, run by New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).)
Helen Bayes is a Melbourne based English-born activist who won the Australia's Human Rights Medal in 1999.
She was born into a Quaker family in Northern England and migrated to Australia in 1966, at age 22. She has 4 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She holds a BA in Social Work and BA (Hons) in Social Administration, and had a 15-year career in the National and State Public Service in the areas of Social Policy and Community Services.
Helen resigned from the Public Service and set up an international child rights advocacy NGO called the Australian Section of Defence for Children International, and has served that organisation in Australia, in Geneva, and on the International Council for 20 years. Helen Bayes was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal for this work in 1999.
Helen's concern for the rights of children grew into a fascination with early Quakerism. As Eva Koch Fellow at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, she researched the views of the earliest Quakers on the nurturing and guidance of children and young people. She was the James Backhouse Lecturer in 2002 (the Australian equivalent of the SP Gardner Lecture), entitled Respecting the Rights of Children and Young People: A New Perspective on Quaker Faith and Practice.
On a lighter side, Helen collects Quaker bonnets, one of which she is wearing in the above photo.
Quakers – who are they
You can about the book, “Dangerous Allies,” by Malcolm Fraser, (Australian PM from 1975 to 1983) which argues that the time when it was in our strategic interest to have a strong military relationship with the US is over, and that now Australia would be better off with a more independent foreign policy. (New Zealand too!)
and our Greenplanet interview with Murray Horton on why New Zealand needs an independent foreign policy:
This interview was sponsored by The Awareness Party