Thursday, 18 July 2013

What Are You Wearing Today?

I have been reading an 'Organic NZ' magazine.
There was a very interesting article about cotton.
I was horrified when I read about the conditions
under which the majority of the worlds cotton is produced.
Cotton... That I take for granted in the clothes I wear...
My towels... Linen on my bed.

1/3rd of the textile fibres used round the world come from cotton.
The 100 million households involved in its cultivation
experience a precarious livelihood... Economic insecurity...
Hazards to their health... And it is environmentally destructive.

This annual shrub, native to India, Africa and the Americas,
first began cultivation in the Indus Valley 7-8000 years ago.
In the late 17th and the 18th centuries British colonial mercantilists
forced Indian farmers to grow cheap cotton to feed the emerging
British textile industry. They imposed laws hampering the local Indian
industry forcing Indian markets to buy British textiles.
The Indian cotton supply wasn't enough for Britain so they turned to
slave plantations in the USA and the Caribbean.
Today cotton remains a major export crop for India, the USA and
parts of Africa but China is now the biggest producer.
Cotton growing takes up 2.6% of global cropland and uses 16%
of the global pesticide used each year. In India, the 2nd biggest
producer, 56% of all pesticides are for cotton crops, 40% of
which are classed as hazardous by the World Health Org.
Pesticides applied during cotton production can be detected in
cotton clothing. Significant and cumulative neurobehavioural
impairment in Egyptian cotton growers is a result of
exposure to these very toxic pesticides.

99% of the world's cotton comes from the developing world
where the farmers tend to have low levels of safety awareness,
high levels of illiteracy, lack protective gear and live in chronic poverty
all of which exacerbates the damage caused by these chemicals.
Child labour is rife despite their greater vulnerability to toxins.
In India and Uzbekistan children are directly involved in applying
pesticides to the crops. In Pakistan, Egypt and Central Asia
child labourers work in the cotton fields during and following
the spraying season.

Pesticides used in cotton production contaminate rivers in
USA, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Australia, Greece and West Africa.
In Brazil, the worlds 4th largest consumer of agrochemicals
rainwater was found to contain 19 different
chemicals, 12 of which were used in cotton growing in that area.
Cotton is a thirsty crop. In Uzbekistan, the worlds 6th biggest
cotton producer and 3rd biggest exporter, the Aral Sea, once
the worlds 4th largest inland body of water is now reduced to 15%
of its former volume, the 24 native fish species have all disappeared
and most of the country's wetland ecosystems have dried out.
The result - tens of thousands of people have become environmental
refugees. Among the people of Karakalpakstan unemployment is 70%
poverty related  health problems are rampant, pesticide laden dust
causes 50% of all deaths from respiratory problems.
One baby in every 23 is born with an abnormality, genetic mutation
amongst Karakalpaks is 3.5 more than the normal rate.
This madness in Uzbekistan is maintained by brutal
repression of any dissident by the Communist-era boss
turned post-Communist dictator...Islam Karimov.
He uses systematic torture,  judicial interference and
murder. Farmers must sell their crops to the state monopoly,
they are often cheated of their meagre earnings.
They are threatened with eviction, beaten and killed to force
them to meet production quotas, school lessons are suspended
during harvest with children required to work in the fields.
All this earns the Karimov regime more than US$1billion a year
in hard currency. The same thing happens in Turkmenistan where
more than one million children under age 12 work in the cotton
fields under harsh conditions.

Since 1996 when it was commercialised,
Bt cotton is a major USA GE crop, engineered to contain
its own insecticide and in theory reduce pesticide use.
By 2008  86% of USA cotton was GE,
(USDA Report) and has been heralded as successful.
A Biotech Infonet report suggests it does reduce pesticide
use in some cases by 5%!  Another study reports that Bt cotton grown in
China in 2006  used the same amount of pesticide as before its
introduction in 1999. The higher yields promised from Bt cotton have not
been realised, the seed costs more and requires more irrigation.
The result...High levels of debt for farmers in developing
countries and high levels of farmer suicides...
Large scale animal deaths as they graze on post-harvest cotton stubble.
Chemical cotton production is exploitive, destructive of the environment
and of poorer communities. Short term profit drives production with little
regard for the long term impact on waterways, soil health or the
wellbeing of producers. A shift to GE cotton
is driven by the desire of seed companies to monopolise
 the market and farmers to shave costs...
Rather than the need to restore a better relationship with the environment.
Fairtrade is focusing on many of these issues...
Watch the films on this link...
Including the concern over the US subsidy paid to US cotton farmers
which artificially depresses cotton prices to the commodity markets.
Monsanto has launched a campaign to reduce child labour in India.
Environmental Justice Foundation  is raising awareness.
Water Footprint Network is working with global water awareness

So! What are  you wearing today?
What are you sleeping in?
Have you stopped to think about it.
I hadn't.
I am very aware of the slave and forced labour in China
that makes so many of our clothes but where the fabric
comes from is something new for me to think about 
and become more aware about.

What is the answer... My next post will make a suggestion...
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Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Eary Morning Mist

We have had some very cold mornings for the Far North.
This particular morning recently it was 4 degrees.
I looked out at the still coldness
and as the sun came up from the horizon
of the sea the sudden warmth created this
amazing mist rising up from the water.
It created all sorts of illusions...
What looked like land and trees where there is none...
And in the first photo illusions of islands
where actually it is a solid peninsular.
It only lasted a few seconds...
Then was gone.

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Friday, 12 July 2013


It was a perfect mid-winter day...
Sunny, warm, no wind...
I was driving further north along the
Karikari Peninsula...
And stopped on the side of the road
by this tiny lake...
The stillness and reflections were just amazing.
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Thursday, 4 July 2013

Another Sunrise... Another Day...

Yesterday we had an amazing storm...
A curtain of solid rain and strong wind.
I spent the day firmly shut inside with the heater going.
I woke this morning to dark lowering sky
and a sunrise of a different hue...

I'm at the same beach, parked in the same place.

The grass that was brown and tinder dry
in the summer drought,
is now green and lush.

The early morning beach was a symphony of
deep greys and midnight blues...

By 11.30am the sun had appeared...
The wind had swept the clouds away...

The beach has transformed...
The temperature has risen...
It's a mid-summer like day again.
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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Today's Art In The Sky...

I woke this morning at 7.15am and opened my eyes
to this amazing sunrise...

The most spectacular colours...

 Then in a few minutes gone...
And the sun is struggling to emerge through the clouds
on this cool mid winter day.
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Monday, 1 July 2013

A Week In Russell, Bay of Islands

I've been to visit  friends in Russell.
I lived here for two years and love visiting often.
I never get tired of this unique little town...
Of Kororareka... To give it it's original name.
The little settlement at the north end of the car ferry
now known as Okiato, was the first Russell and
the first capital of New Zealand in 1840 when the
Treaty of Waitangi was signed.
In 1841 the capital was shifted to Auckland.
This is where I park my bus... In their driveway.

This is the road to the left in the photo above...
The road over the hill to Tapeka and another beautiful
little beach... Good for swimming and fishing..
And the road up to Flagstaff Hil and the famous flagpole.
The photos are very dull and cloudy...
Like the day. We had heavy rain...
Which is great for the locals who all rely on the
rain to fill their water tanks...
It was cloudy and misty and typical of
Northland winter, a mixture of rain, sometimes heavy
then warm sun and not at all cold.
But everything was sodden underfoot and the grass too soft to park or walk on.
We had spent the days mostly inside but I decided
I had to do my ritual walk around the town
and see the sights before I left... Again.

This is what in New Zealand we call 'bush'.
The rain has made everything 'green, wet and
perfumed'  a smell unique to this bush.
It's also a Kiwi area, who are very territorial birds and at night
you can clearly hear them calling to each other.

This is walking towards the town...
The opposite direction from Tapeka.
This crossroads is Wellington Street and York Street straight ahead.
On the left the Methodist church built 1913
which has finally closed after the last of its elderly congregation
died and the church was no longer used...
So it's for sale by tender...
I've just heard it has been sold to the Baptist church.
On the right the 'Immigrant Cottage... Built 1875...
It is the last of eight Government owned pre-fabricated cottages
moved from Auckland by ship and assembled on site...
All between here and the boat ramp.
They were built to assist immigrants with temporary housing.
Mr & Mrs William Williams, newly-weds, were the first people to live here
and most of their thirteen children were born
and grew up in this little house.
There was not the demand expected for these houses so
the Williams family lived there for many years.
Wellington Street to the left goes over the hill to Long Beach...

I have turned right towards the boat ramp.

I see they now charge $2 to use the ramp...
That's new!
In the distance is Paihia...
If you can see it through the mist and rain.

The sun's come out... As I walk
along The Strand... Locally known as 'The Waterfront'
or 'Front Beach'.

The wharf... Where the passenger ferries leave for Paihia and
other ferries pick up people for various trips to
the Hole in the Rock, or Swimming with the Dolphins
 and other exciting things.

Looking back... The boat ramp and in the far corner of the beach
 old Russell House built in 1889 by two brothers who also built and owned
 a fish factory, located next door, that smoked and
canned  mullet for seventeen years.
The fish factory building was moved to Matauwhi Bay and
became the Russell boat club which still functions.

The famous Duke of Marlborough hotel... The fourth one!
Originally it was the accommodation block for the Cable Station
 at Cable Bay in Doubtless Bay.
The third  'Duke' burnt down 1931.
It was  fully booked for holidays so the disused accommodation
building was barged down and set up for the holidays makers
and became the current and fourth Duke of Marlborough.
The first 'Duke' was built in 1827.
After the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 licensing became law.
The first 'Duke' duke was issued with the first liquor licence in  July 1840
but  burned down in 1845 when Hone Heke cut down the flag pole
 and the town was ransacked.

It has recently changed ownership and had been done up...
It's looking good now... A popular venue for weddings.

The historic  Police Station for Russell's
one policeman. A new station has been
built so this has become the policeman's residence only.

Its  history...

The amazing Morton Bay Fig...

It's intertwined trunk... About 150 years old.

Further along the waterfront... The old cannon (on the left)
arrived in New Zealand as ballast in an old sailing ship
that was  used to defend Kororareka on the day of
Hone Heke's attack on  11 March 1845.
On the right the Town Hall... The second one built on this site.
The orginal wooden buiding built in 1881 blew down in a gale in 1916.
It was replaced in 1922 after the end of World War II but
built of concrete and rough-cast... And is still standing.
  Art House movies are shown here regularly now.

Just past the Town Hall... the Village Green and War Memorial.
 Put up in 2000, it was a millennium project.
It is where the ANZAC Day services are now held.
The lists of WWI and WWII dead that are usually on these
memorials are located in Christ Church.
 It is also a 'time capsule' where all sorts of people, businesses and
children put all sorts of things...
To be opened in 100 years... or so.

I continued my walk, turning left here.
Further on along the waterfront, the conical roof is
Pompalier... The first printing business in New Zealand...
And a place well worth a visit if you are in Russell.

I walked past the old... I bet this house could tell
a story or two...

Likewise this old garage...

And the new...

More of the old... "Christ Church Russell'. Built in1835
and one of only two buildings to carefully be saved
in the 1845 ransacking fires.
The other building was the school.
It is the oldest still functioning church
in New Zealand... The grave stones tell stories
of the old history  of Russell and its early families.

This is the museum...
A collection of Maori and European historical treasures...
Easy to spend a day here.

I walked along York street, back towards home... Past the cafe...
The post box and local notice board
which are outside the book shop...
And the very popular bakery.

Past a local lady sitting out of the rain, outside
the bakery... Is she waiting for a friend, or a ride home,
or a delicious pie for lunch...

From the other side of the road... As I dodge the showers...
The Four Square...
Locally known as the 'Back' Four Square...
To differential it from the 'Front' Four Square...
Which is on The Strand by the wharf.
I have always wondered why such a small town
has two such tiny supermarkets and
they don't combine... But there it is!

The next corner is the road down to the ferry wharf...
Another small street of shops... A gas station on the corner...
A new tattoo business... The only bank...
An ice cream shop... Next door to the pizza shop...

And my favourite shop... The Antique shop...
I always have a browse in here and have been known to be tempted...
Beautiful old crystal, clothes, books, jewellery, china...

Lots of shops are closed for the winter...

Nearly home... The large house on the left... Cavali House was originally
the home of the manager of the fish canning factory, built 1889.
It fell into serious disrepair but has been been
beautifully restored by its present owners.
I continue along the road the the right of this photo...
Turn left and I'm home again...
My ritual completed... Till next time.
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