Permaculture Design Certificate Course, Vancouver – October 2009!

As promised, I am officially offering a Certificate in Permaculture Design course to take place over 4 weeks this October.  Details below:

Announcing a full Permaculture Design Certificate course right here in Vancouver!

Learn the principles of design and implementation of sustainable human systems and how we can apply them where we live, right now.  This 14 day course will give you the tools you need, and meets all curriculum requirements to grant participants the internationally recognized Certificate of Permaculture Design upon completion.

This non-residential course will take place in a series of four three-day modules (Tues/Wed/Thurs) and two hands-on learning days (Saturdays) here in Vancouver between October 6 and October 29, 2009.  For more information or to register, email farmhousefarm (at) gmail (dot) com

COST: $900 (includes course package and supplies)

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Chickens, Elitism, and the NAFTA Flu

I saw an article in the Vancouver Courier a few days ago talking about a Vancouverite who had recently returned from Indonesia, where backyard chickens have been banned as a response to fears over avian flu. He was “shocked” to learn that Vancouver is considering legalizing backyard chickens and was outraged; we’ll all die of avian flu, apparently, if instead of tortured in warehouses where nobody can see them, chickens are made a part of peoples’ families.  The headline on the article was something like “Coastal Health Downplays Risk of Flu in Backyard Chickens” or somesuch thing, which while giving due time to a person from the health region saying that backyard chickens pose no avian flu risk, was still a headline that I thought seemed calculated to play on the fears of people who know nothing about animals, food, or health; they’re “downplaying” the risk, implying that it’s more of a risk than they’re admitting to.  In fact, the whole article seemed to be written with thinly-veiled support for this dude who’s afraid that people’s chickens are going to cause a flu outbreak; sounds a lot more like rich, elitist NIMBYism to me, blaming the poor who raise their own chickens for the problems caused by rich global agribusiness corporations and their unsanitary, unhealthy practises.  My favourite quote was something about how “raising chickens should be left to professional commercial operations away from urban areas.”  Wait, what?  So, healthy, happy chickens in someone’s backyard are out, but battery cages and factory farms are okay?  Rediculous.

It made me think of this segment from Democracy Now! a few months ago, about the roots of swine flu in confinement hog operations that fled the US to Mexico when NAFTA was signed, after they were charged with the biggest environmental fine in US history for dumping hog shit into Chesapeake Bay.  Since they would have had to clean up to keep operating, they just went to Mexico where NAFTA allowed them to operate without any environmental oversight.  Now, I’m certainly no chicken expert, but I see a lot of parallels here.  It seems to make sense that if sick pigs cause flu outbreaks, sick chickens probably do the same, yes?  I doubt that it’s the healthy, happy chickens in peoples’ backyards where they have real food, fresh air, and a clean place to live that are going to transmit flu.  Proximity to people is much more likely to make sure that chickens are kept in good conditions; a dirty, unhealthy chicken coop smells, well, like shit.  Hidden away where the people eating the eggs and meat don’t have to see (or smell) them, chickens in these so-called “professional commercial operations” can be treated appallingly and be unhealthy in every way and nobody says boo.  It seems to me that folks should be calling for a ban on Chicken McNuggets and closing down that goddamned chicken hell on Powell street if they’re worried about flu.