Tag Archives: cnn

In the Library: Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies

fruit&veggiesThis book is an ethnographic witness to the everyday lives and suffering of Mexican migrants. : Migrant Farm workers in the United States (California Series in Public Anthropology)

Based on five years of research in the field (including berry-picking and traveling with migrants back and forth from Oaxaca up the West Coast), Holmes, an anthropologist and MD in the mold of Paul Farmer and Didier Fassin, uncovers how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care. Holmes’ material is visceral and powerful—for instance, he trekked with his informants illegally through the desert border into Arizona, where they were apprehended and jailed by the Border Patrol. After he was released from jail (and his companions were deported back to Mexico), Holmes interviewed Border Patrol agents, local residents, and armed vigilantes in the borderlands. He lived with indigenous Mexican families in the mountains of Oaxaca and in farm labor camps in the United States, planted and harvested corn, picked strawberries, accompanied sick workers to clinics and hospitals, participated in healing rituals, and mourned at funerals for friends. The result is a “thick description” that conveys the full measure of struggle, suffering, and resilience of these farm workers.

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies weds the theoretical analysis of the anthropologist with the intimacy of the journalist to provide a compelling examination of structural and symbolic violence, medicalization, and the clinical gaze as they affect the experiences and perceptions of a vertical slice of indigenous Mexican migrant farm workers, farm owners, doctors, and nurses. This reflexive, embodied anthropology deepens our theoretical understanding of the ways in which socially structured suffering comes to be perceived as normal and natural in society and in health care, especially through imputations of ethnic body difference. In the vehement debates on immigration reform and health reform, this book provides the necessary stories of real people and insights into our food system and health care system for us to move forward to fair policies and solutions.

from amazon.com

ClearWaterProject: Building a movement for clean water & cultural survival

“Without clean water, we cannot survive,” Emergildo Criollo told me recently.

You may have heard of Emergildo. An indigenous leader of the Cofan Nation in Ecuador’s northern Amazon, he has been a relentless advocate for his people, speaking out about oil giant Chevron’s toxic legacy in his territory. But today, even as he continues the fight to hold Chevron accountable, Emergildo isn’t waiting for a cleanup that seems always on the horizon.

Emergildo is taking matters into his own hands, helping to bring clean water to thousands of indigenous people who have suffered without for decades. And today, I want to ask you to support Emergildo, and the other indigenous leaders who are part of an effort that Amazon Watch is deeply proud to support:

It’s called The ClearWater Project.


Established in late 2011 by long-time Amazon Watch campaigner Mitch Anderson, ClearWater was a response to Emergildo’s clarion call for clean water, where access to this basic necessity can be a matter of life and death.

ClearWater began with a big goal: provide safe, sustainable access to clean water for every indigenous family in the region, whose ancestral waterways have been poisoned by oil production and ensuing industrialization.

In just two years, ClearWater has installed more than 500 family-sized rainwater harvesting and filtration systems that serve thousands of people in communities who have long suffered an epidemic of cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses that numerous health studies in the region blame on a lack of access to safe sources of water for drinking, bathing, and cooking.

And our efforts have been able to make this impact because from the beginning, ClearWater has been a collaborative partnership between the five indigenous nationalities here – the Cofan, Siona, Secoya, Kichwa, and Waorani – and international supporters, such as water engineers, humanitarians, activists, philanthropists, and people like you.

ClearWater believes in collaborative, integrative, community-led solutions, where someone like Emergildo is coordinating amongst the different indigenous nationalities to install new water systems, local youth are using GPS to map their biological and cultural resources, and frontline leaders are learning new media techniques to broadcast their concerns to the world.

Clean water, health, and dignity. From this foundation, Emergildo and the indigenous people of Ecuador’s northern Amazon, are building a movement for rainforest protection and cultural survival.

I’m proud that Amazon Watch is a founding partner in this project, and I hope you’ll join us too.

In solidarity,

Han Shan
Han Shan
Amazon Watch Advisory Board Member

P.S. Explore ClearWater’s impact by navigating around this cutting-edge interactive map designed by another Amazon Watch family member, Gregor MacLennan, now Digital Democracy’s Program Director.

Vote with Your Fork, Chem Free Pesticides & Acid Ocean … it’s now 2016

Vote with Your Fork

vote with your fork

Feel that crackle?

Okay, okay. Stand still. Right here in front of me. Close your eyes. Extend your arms out. You feel that? That light crackle across your fingertips?

Change is in the air.

American agriculture is not sustainable. Our food is overloaded with pesticides, growth agents and all the trappings of modern chemical warfare. As a result, the produce we put on our plates … is lacking. We don’t taste the robust flavors in the juices bursting from our salad tomatoes. We cannot grasp the complex fullness of authentic, fresh herbs over rich potatoes for a multilayered flavor the way we would experience in less agriculturally destroyed countries.

1st posted in 2014

Say it isn’t so …


So, I got an email on Monday, saying oh… there’s more that Justin Gammill has to share about “natural flavorings,” turns out , so do I. I was informed by my fams that ice cream more often than not  was homemade and our mom only used pure vanilla extract when vanilla was needed! Whew! So, at least 20years of my life were “Vanilla flavouring,” free, though the fact is anything that has a scent probably includes … Castoreum ~~ from you know where. I also came across a 2011 article from http://vrg.org and that is posted separately, below is my first post … continuity for updates of course

 I was looking through my email a few days ago and came across an article about ice cream and the heading gave me the impression something seemingly vile was being put in it and had to find out. I love and eat all kinds of ice cream all year around because of its ice creamy goodness. I was still am in the reason rationalization phase, thinking ok, I can find out which ice cream brands actually list all of their ingredients and omit those that have the “natural flavoring”  buying only those who don’t use you know what from you know where! A secretion sac. Then I found out that Castoreum, is used for beauty products and sadly, that was not all.

The article by Justin Gammill, was well written I laughed but I cannot lie it pissed me off to find out that my obsession for vanilla was … extracted from my heart. I have been a vanilla lovin fool since my crayon days second to coconut and included in my group of extraordinary smells I love obsess over and have used for years. While I love cinnamon and almond too, vanilla was … yes, was my go to after Shea butter for the skin the others for all things used on our skin eat and drink. I admit the article brought out feelings of sadness as well as sounds of ick eeep ugh of what must happen to the animal giving up their secretions let alone who how why did someone decide, uh um  uh let’s take that beaver sac and see what we can do with its stuff. I am definitely frowning about the slap of ugly reality of “natural flavorings” knowing it had to come from somewhere and that was bad enough, but to research it a little more and read what health.com has to say:

“Where you’ll find it: On both female &male Beavers ~ Castoreum! “While it sounds downright disgusting, the FDA says it’s GRAS, meaning it’s “generally recognized as safe.” You won’t see Castoreum on the food label because it’s generally listed as “natural flavoring.” It’s natural all right—naturally icky.”

Today, Castoreum is used as a tincture in some perfumes[5] as a food additive, perfumes cigarettes, bee keepers use it and there are medicinal uses as well. Apparently, back in the 18th Century, they thought Castoreum induced abortions among other things and helped headaches too … goodness, don’t tell your favourite Republican because they will suggest putting that between your knees too !

All kidding aside, this stuff is worth a lot per sac.

Resources: wiki, the internet, health.com and Justin’s article

You Put WHAT in My Ice Cream??

You Put WHAT in My Ice Cream??


by Justin Gammill
After all of the research that has gone into the food articles I’ve been writing, I have to admit that there are more things on my “List of Stuff to Never Put in my Mouth” than there has ever been. Razor blades, small woodland creatures, marbles, and burning embers are now joined by anything from McDonalds, Subway, Burger King, or Arby’s. Admittedly, that’s probably a good thing, but one such item that got added to the list recently really hurt.


See, out there in the food universe, there is a fun little ingredient called Castoreum. A seemingly innocent enough looking word since there is no questionable “-izine” at the end of it. “Hey can you pass the Castoreum?” sounds perfectly normal. Well, take it from me, you don’t want to pass the Castoreum, you want to throw it out the nearest window … possibly after lighting it on fire.

Castoreum is literally a secretion from the anal glands of a mature North American beaver. For the sake of conversation, we’ll just go ahead and call it Beaver Butt Juice, because that makes me giggle. I wish I was making this up, because the idea of putting beaver butt juice on anything other than a beaver recliner or beaver toilet paper is pretty disgusting. Unfortunately it’s a common ingredient whose most common use is for vanilla flavoring. Normally you’d expect people to try to prevent the anal secretions from a beaver from getting into your food, but not in this case. Beaver butt juice is FDA approved, and is listed as “natural flavoring” on most food labels. I can respect that, “natural flavoring” sounds better than “exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver”. But wait, my beloved Blue Bell has “Natural flavoring” listed in its ingredients … Have I been Beaver Butt Juiced? I’ll never know!

Well, It’s official Blue Bell Ice Cream, you’ve broken my heart…

I guess I shouldn’t single you out Blue Bell, you might not be the only one. Those crazy creamers Ben and Jerry might use it. Those silly Danish-sounding guys over at Häagen-Dazs might use it. Heck, even the weirdo’s over at Breyers might be slinging beaver butt juice around like Columbian drug lords. But I thought we had something special Blue Bell. You were always there in my childhood; at birthdays, holidays, school functions, everything. You covered my brownie. You accompanied my cake. You cooled me on hot days. Only for me to discover that after all these years you may have been beaver butt juiced up.

This is one of those rare chances in life where I will take the synthetic man-made alternative, Vanillin in this case, over the “All Natural” approach. Even with this being said, I guarantee you that there is some hippy out there that will read this and say “Wow, I’m only eating Blue Bell now because it’s all natural”. Have at it, buddy, the Vegans and I will pass. Well, the vegan is going to pass no matter what unless it’s soy ice cream; because heaven forbid we torture the poor cows by milking them. I don’t know if the beavers enjoy being “juiced”, I haven’t heard back from their press agent, but the vegans usually don’t think anything is good. Ever. And I’m pretty sure they hate puppies, freedom, and roller coasters too.

Random Side Note: Next time you think you hate your job, at that very moment there is a guy squeezing juice out of a beaver’s butt so that your ice cream is extra vanilla-y. All the sudden being the head cashier at the Dollar Store isn’t so bad…