sábado, agosto 02, 2008

Carnival Antidote / Antídoto Carnaval

See just this Post & Comments / 0 Comments so far / Post a Comment /   Home
Up, Down.

Carnival, Carnaval, Carnival in the Piazza Colonna, Rome, Jan Miel, 1645Carnival, Carnaval, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, Pieter Bruegel, 1559

Carnival in the Piazza Colonna, Rome - Jan Miel - 1645 & The Fight Between Carnival and Lent - Pieter Bruegel - 1559. One Carnival for the rich, another for the poor. One for the pious and another for the profane. One for the hip and one for the square. Charles Taylor seems to think that the struggle is over, that the battle has been won by secular reality - and to a degree he is right. The Rio de Janeiro Carnaval, for example, has been taken over by the bureaucrats and categorical classifiers, all very carefully regulated and controlled. But still, the birth rate here spikes in November/December - nine months after Carnaval. My friend smiles when I consider the birth date of her son and say, "Aí, engravidou durante Carnaval?"

And the Bloco da Ansiedade each year in Ipanema, starting at Praça General Osório, site of the weekly Sunday Feira Hippie / Hippie Craft Fair, and getting maybe two blocks before it stalls in permanent confusion.

(Antonio Carlos Maia - psicólogo, Daniel Perez - comerciante, Fernando Carvalho - escultor/empresário, Fernanda Caetano - atriz/empresária)

Carnival, Carnaval, Bloco da Ansiedade, Ipanema, Praça General Osório, Feira HippieCarnival, Carnaval, Bloco da Ansiedade, Ipanema, Praça General Osório, Feira Hippie
BRINCAR NÃO NECESSITA DE PRESCRIÇÃO MEDICA. O ABUSO PODE CAUSAR INDEPENDÊNCIA / Playing does not require a doctor's prescription. Abuse may cause independence
FUNDADO NO CARNAVAL DO ANO QUE VEM / Founded at next year's carnival

I knew something was up the very day I arrived in Brasil. "It was springtime in Paris and cunt was in the air," as Henry Miller put it so eloquently in Quiet Days in Clichy. Right from the marvellous stench coming from the bayous near the airport it was clear that something very different was happening here:

"And you know something's happening but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?"

That was years ago. More recently I have become obsessed with samba dancers (as you may have noticed if you read any my latest posts to the end) and naturally, I have been wondering about this - still trying to figgure out what's happnin' in there? Charles Taylor has something to say about Carnival in his A Secular Age which I have been picking up on, and Taylor refers to another fellow, Victor Witter Turner (1920 – 1983) and his wife Edith.

Carnival, Carnaval, Victor Witter Turner, Liminal, Anti-StructureCarnival, Carnaval, Victor Witter Turner, Liminal, Anti-StructureCarnival, Carnaval, Edith Turner, wife of Victor Witter TurnerCarnival, Carnaval, Edith Turner, wife of Victor Witter Turner

Two notions I have bumped into so far - Liminal & Anti-Structure ...

Carnival, Carnaval, Penis SuitLiminal: Of or pertaining to the threshold or initial stage of a process. Of or pertaining to a ‘limen’ or ‘threshold.’

Polysemy, Polysemous: The fact of having several meanings; the possession of multiple meanings, senses, or connotations.

Etymology of semy & semous coming through 'sema' meaning 'sign' rather than 'serere' meaning 'to sow' as I previously thought (which happens to be the root of semen and a nice symmetry I always thought :-) oh well.

Anti-Structure: periods of time and modalities of relationship in which normal social structural patterns are suspended, altered, or transcended (for example, Carnival/Carnaval doh!).

The key here is the word 'transcended,' the clue if you like. One could ask why people use words like 'modalities' when 'modes' would do, but that is another issue. This whole area is dominated by 'scholars' who differ less and less from bureaucrats :-)

For some truly bizarre gobbledygook check this out: Ritual, Anti-Structure, and Religion: A Discussion of Victor Turner's Processual Symbolic Analysis, Mathieu Deflem, 1991. Especially the line, "Having discussed Turner's notion of anti-structure ..." except that the discussion is nowhere to be found, no such thing! Pretentious bonehead!

And the rest of the 'scholars' I have dredged up with Google are entirely well hidden behind pay-per-view interfaces, oh well.

Let me see if I can get this out.

We have a cosmos which increasingly appears to consist of both matter and anti-matter.   Though you can't exactly see anti-matter, it seems to be there eh?   Society and culture, on the other hand, increasingly appear to consist only of 'matter'   -   materialism, exclusive humanism, excarnated incarnations, rationality gone wild   (if you will permit such a phrase :-)   Taylor talks about a balance between structured culture and unstructured moments such as Carnival   -   and suggests that this balance is essential, and not just as some kind of safety-valve either.

The distinctions natural/supernatural and immanent/transcendent are equivalent for Taylor.   (This was a major step for me because somewhere along the line I got a different idea of what 'immanent' meant.)   The supernatural and the transcendent are being done away with, clear enough.

Echoes of, or maybe just a hint of, trickster gods, coyote ... as ...   necessary for the health of the community,   or,   given what I know of global climate change as a function of instrumentalism and 'externalities',   would that be for the health and continued existence of the species itself maybe?

I've seen the future brother, it is murder.

I didn't really expect any relevant commentary in the press - then I read Mark Kingwell in the Globe, so I will start a package of references, maybe even include the text from Mathieu Deflem mentioned above, then again, maybe not.

1. Branded for life, Mark Kingwell, August 4.
2. Unpasteurized Milk - The right to rawness, Globe Editorial, August 4.
3. The Incredible Story of Michael and Dorothea Schmidt and Real Milk in Canada, Sally Fallon.
4. Glencolton Farms - Michael and Dorothea Schmidt.
5. Ontario farmer fights to sell raw milk (Video).
6. Are We Stuck With ‘Blah, Blah, Blah, … Bang’?, Andrew C. Revkin, August 4.

Glencolton Farms, Michael Schmidt, Dorothea Schmidt, The Milk Wars, Unpasteurized MilkGlencolton Farms, Michael Schmidt, Dorothea Schmidt, The Milk Wars, Unpasteurized MilkGlencolton Farms, Michael Schmidt, Dorothea Schmidt, The Milk Wars, Unpasteurized MilkGlencolton Farms, Michael Schmidt, Dorothea Schmidt, The Milk Wars, Unpasteurized MilkGlencolton Farms, Michael Schmidt, Dorothea Schmidt, The Milk Wars, Unpasteurized MilkGlencolton Farms, Michael Schmidt, Dorothea Schmidt, The Milk Wars, Unpasteurized MilkGlencolton Farms, Michael Schmidt, Dorothea Schmidt, The Milk Wars, Unpasteurized MilkGlencolton Farms, Michael Schmidt, Dorothea Schmidt, The Milk Wars, Unpasteurized MilkGlencolton Farms, Michael Schmidt, Dorothea Schmidt, The Milk Wars, Unpasteurized MilkGlencolton Farms, Michael Schmidt, Dorothea Schmidt, The Milk Wars, Unpasteurized Milk

Branded for life, Mark Kingwell, August 4.

We're constantly being sold things - increasingly by having our own desires turned against us.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is the blandest and most innocuous of American beers, entirely without brewing virtues or distinguishing features, except for its fussy old-school label. Which is one reason I like to drink it, chilled to within an inch of freezing, on fishing trips to Montana and New Hampshire.

Now it seems that PBR is the latest evolution of the advertising industry. In Rob Walker's new book, Buying In, he recounts how a Pabst executive, after reading Naomi Klein's No Logo, decided to low-key his company's campaign, targeting a countercultural market-slice of skateboarders and surfers precisely by pretending not to target them. His company quietly sponsored events and concerts, selling its beer almost as an afterthought - as if, Mr. Walker notes, they didn't give a damn whether anybody drank the stuff or not.

At this point, PBR exists entirely as a brand, its contents brewed, if that's the word, by mega-corp Miller. The beer that used to have appeal because it had no character has now become a beer that does not really exist.

Well, so what? Spectral marketing, with the product effectively redundant because the brand is what is purchased, is so familiar to today's consumers that the original kind of advertising, the sort depicted on the cable television show Mad Men, looks like a form of quaint mythology. You mean they used to try and make people believe that products would make them happier?

The PBR campaign generated brand-consciousness by stealth rather than glamour, that is, by the anti-glamour known as cool, but that too is familiar. Both glamour and cool are positional goods: They are enjoyed when someone lacking recognizes our possession of them. Glamour involves races to the top that become races to the bottom; cool involves races to the outside that create new forms of inside.

The striking note in all this is the mention of Ms. Klein's book, a runaway bestseller that crystallized youthful hostility to the big sell and was part of wide-scale protests over globalization. The book is invariably described as "an anti-corporate manifesto," which it surely is. It has also become, despite itself, a manual for branding's evolution even as its author has moved on to more searching critiques of capitalism.

The Klein co-optation is more than just the corporate world's usual strategy of assassination by assimilation. Marketers now use the levers of criticism against themselves, making branding better by embracing, rather than ignoring, their harshest opposition. On this model, the logic of rebellion is the engine of market success, not a sabot tossed into its machinery.

Marketers have thus become viruses or, more crudely, urban raccoons. Just as inoculations create more resistant superbugs, as strains adapt to harsher countermeasures, more elaborate anti-invasion devices on garbage cans force raccoons to adapt. And our criticism of branding's tactics is generating new and more elusively successful campaigns. We make raccoons smarter with every new arrangement of bungee cord or wire; we make marketers smarter every time we resist a visible lure because that forces adaptation to invisible ones.

Unlike raccoons, young marketers are not cuter than their older, bigger parents. And they sift through our psyches and pocketbooks rather than our gardens and garbage cans. But does it really matter that we're constantly being sold things, and increasingly by turning our own desires against us?

One sign that it does matter comes with another premise of Rob Walker's book, what we might call the Exceptionality Fantasy. Most people believe they themselves are immune from marketing tactics even as they note the sad susceptibility of other people. I tested the EF on myself and it held: I drink Starbucks coffee because it tastes good; you drink Tim Hortons because you have bought into nostalgia and sham nationalism. Now you try.

The EF obtains despite, indeed precisely because of, the success of "revelatory" books about the industry, everything from John Kenneth Galbraith's classic The Affluent Society to No Logo and Adbusters magazine. Not only are we making marketers smarter, we're apparently making ourselves dumber. A hard sell and a soft sell are both sells that you can decide to take or leave. A sell disguised as a desire not to be sold to, which you have created by demonstrating that you're too smart to be sold to, is something about which you can offer no decision.

If, discerning that little endgame, you are brave enough to query your own desires and sift them for validity, what you will find is the unsettling mixture of memory, longing, prejudice, imitation, narrative looseness and delusion known as personal identity. Marketers will be with us just like raccoons will, and for the same reason: Despite ourselves, we have desires that they exploit for their own ends.

You can do the dance of sideways dodges, trying to stay cooler than the cool-hunters, savvier than the savvy-trappers. But however you dodge, you are done, because they're already inside your head. You could always make this point in a critical way. But that would only inspire some sly marketer somewhere to take that point and run with it - under cover, of course, but running all the same. (Hip new branding shop: Smart Raccoon PLC.)

Resistance is not just futile, it is the energy of their evolution. So stop the feeding. Criticism of advertising is over. It never happened. You have not read this article. This article never happened.

Express no preferences. Form no attachments.

Have a beer. Any beer.

Mark Kingwell is professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto. His new book is Opening Gambits: Essays on Art and Philosophy.

Unpasteurized Milk - The right to rawness, Globe Editorial, August 4.

Some of the more worrisome instincts of the nanny state were on display in an Ontario courtroom last week as farmer Michael Schmidt was told he would soon stand trial for producing raw, unpasteurized milk.

Its sale is banned in Canada because milk that is not heated up to kill germs can harbour dangerous bacteria, and has been linked to E. coli infections.

Except among the health nuts and gourmands who love to drink it, and the bureaucrats who try to stop them, raw milk is an obscure subject. But its illegal status deserves scrutiny.

While some level of consumer protection is an obvious government responsibility, the raw-milk ban is unjustified and unfair. Milk is hardly the only possible source of bacteria such as E. coli, outbreaks of which have been traced to beef, spinach, onions, alfalfa sprouts and water.

None of these products has ever been banned by health regulators, and with good reason. The issue is never the products themselves, but poor farming and production practices. The same is true of raw milk. It can be dangerous, but the vast majority of the time it is perfectly safe. For proof, look to Europe, where raw milk is relatively common.

Even if raw milk is, on the whole, somewhat more dangerous than other products, so what? Consumers are trusted to make informed choices about comparative risk every day. Cigarettes are just one example; fatty foods are another (and they can be fed to children, with whose health parents take chances all the time).

The only difference is that tobacco and fat will almost certainly contribute to chronic illness, while raw milk has a tiny chance of causing acute illness. On the other hand, some advocates claim its consumption has health benefits.

As long as people who buy raw milk understand they are taking a small risk by doing so, there is no reason they should not be prevented by law. The solution may be a mandatory labelling regime, or allowing raw-milk sales only at farms, so that no shopper will innocently grab it from the supermarket shelf.

All societies must find an equilibrium between safety and liberty. In Canada, where some provinces do not allow bar patrons to carry drinks up or down staircases and a number of large cities have near-total bans on street food, we often place too much emphasis on the former. Permittinging the sale of raw milk would be a step toward a better balance.

The Incredible Story of Michael and Dorothea Schmidt and Real Milk in Canada, Sally Fallon.

The city of Toronto spreads out from its center as an inundation of asphalt and grey rooftops, punctuated by soul-numbing high-rise apartments. Gradually the city gives way to farmland, dotted with small towns and pleasant farms, a land of richness and variety. The farms are attractive and well ordered, with old-fashioned barns and silos in good repair. The only jarring note is the occasional pile of old tires cluttered against the outbuildings. Follow the road northeast through the town of Durham and eventually you arrive at Glencolton Farms with its stone farmhouse, compact farmyard and painterly vistas.

The owners are Michael and Dorothea Schmidt who purchased Glencolton when they came to Canada from Germany in 1983. Michael Schmidt is an innovator and an activist. He grew up in the Waldorf education system and has a master's degree in farming. His entire practical training took place on certified organic farms in Germany.

In 1978 Schmidt started a biodynamic organic dairy farm in southern Germany. This farm became the first certified organic farm with cheese processing facilities and today cheese from this farm is distributed throughout Germany. Three years later, Schmidt helped establish the first biodynamic organic farm in Egypt, supplying breeding stock for dairy cows. Today this Egyptian experiment is a flourishing research center and community farm. In recent years he has helped train Russian farmers in the principles of biodynamic farming and has participated in a research project in China.

Once in Canada, Michael introduced spelt to North America and participated in joint research projects with Guelph University, offering the farm for annual farm tours for the students from Guelph. He founded OntarBio Organic Farm Products, Inc. and Saugeen Highland meats to market certified organic meat in Canada. He also developed an export market in Europe for about thirty organic farms in Ontario. With the support of the government, he launched the first North American organic baby cereal, SUMMA, with distribution in Canada and the United States. OntarBio was later transformed into a farmers' cooperative with over eighty members. In 1989, Schmidt helped introduce roadside grazing using 500 to 1000 sheep, for landscaping and to avoid spraying for weeds.


The Schmidts' first cows at Glencolton were black and white Holsteins, the "official" cow of Canada, the breed that produces the most milk and the highest profits in a confinement dairy system. But the Schmidts soon became interested in the Canadienne breed. Descended from the Normandie cow, the Canadienne was the first cow on the North American continent. It is a small cow that can withstand the cold Canadian winters. Her milk is very rich—high in butterfat, lactose and milk solids—making it an ideal milk for cheese.

Michael's search for pure breeds sent him to Quebec. The Canadienne is the poor man's cow. In the early 1900s, government policy forbade grants to farmers who had Canadiennes and no bank would give loans for any breed except Holsteins. Banks love the Holstein, explains Schmidt, because she is expensive to maintain—leading to more bank loans, more debt for the farmer, more worry and more and more emphasis on squeezing the highest level of production out of the original investment. The Canadienne, by contrast, can survive on hay. She has low production but is inexpensive to maintain. In 1987, the Schmidts purchased 12 purebred Canadiennes from a Quebec farmer. Since that time their herd has been closed. They have bred the Canadienne genetics into their original Holsteins, using several Canadienne bulls.

When Michael Schmidt talks about what's wrong with modern milk production, he begins with a reverent description of the cow. The undomesticated cow produces 1000 to 1500 liters of milk per year. When the cow was domesticated, this amount was increased to about 4000 liters—a number that works out to about 1000 gallons per year—with good nutrition and careful handling.

The cow has four teats which tradition distributes as follows: one for the calf, one for the other animals on the farm, one for the family that lives on the farm and one for families that live in the towns or cities. The output of the cow can be increased to 6000 or even 7000 liters per year without undue stress on the cow and this is as it should be since so many people now live in cities. You can't keep a cow in a high-rise apartment. Michael Schmidt's cows are not pushed, however. They give about 4000 liters per year, although the amount varies according to the milker. Europeans hired milkmaids who had lovely singing voices, to coax more milk from the cows and Michael notices that the Glencolton cows give more milk when it's Dorothea's turn to do the milking.

But the coaxing songs of the milkmaid cannot compete with modern methods for increasing production. The modern cow, bred for volume and kept in confinement, gives anywhere from 12,000 to 24,000 liters per year. Milk production is pushed upwards with a high protein diet, a diet to which the udder responds with the production of pus. The average life span of the modern factory cow has declined to about 42 months. In fact, she is only bred once, then milked for as long as 600 days. After that, she is shipped off to the butcher. By contrast, the cows at Glencolton Farms are allowed to go dry during the winter and live in excess of 12 years.

Then there is the question of the number of cows in a herd. Currently the Schmidts keep about 30 milking cows in their barn. Confinement operations range from 1000 to as many as 10,000 cows in one location. The high density of a single species makes disease more likely and antibiotics routine. By contrast, the Glencolton cows have had no warble fly for over ten years. Schmidts vet bill for the year 2000 was $500.

Schmidt's cows feed on lush green pasture from late May to early November. During the winter they receive hay from his own pastures and a supplement of weeds, sticks and herbs, finely ground and all from the farm. He purchases no grain, no feed at all from outside the farm. The modern confinement dairy cow gets all her food shipped in. At best her diet consists of hay and corn; at worst it contains foodstuffs totally unsuited to the cow—bakery waste, soy meal, chicken manure and citrus peel cake loaded with organophosphate pesticides.

There are no old tires on the Schmidts' farm because Michael does not make silage. Silage is fermented green crop or hay, usually produced in plastic-covered piles, held down by old tires. It's a well-known fact in Germany, explains Michael, that you can't make good hard cheese from cows that have been fed silage. In fact, in some districts, such as Emmenthal, silos are forbidden.

The Schmidts' cows receive water twice a day, at milking time. There are no troughs in the field and none in the main barn—only in the milking parlor. By restricting water, the cow is encouraged to produce more saliva. A cow can produce 30 gallons of saliva per day, and this elixir is the magic substance that breaks down cellulose in grass, twigs and branches.

Good food, high saliva production and small herd size make for superbly healthy cows. The proof, says Michael, is in the manure, which he picks up off the barn floor and shows proudly to visitors. The manure seems to be contained in a silica coating—it is firm and sweet smelling. It also makes wonderful compost.


Michael and Dorothea's farm is a biodynamic farm. They follow the guidelines left by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner who described the farm as a living organism, its vitality created by the effective use of the enlivening forces of sunlight and the symbiosis of the organisms that populate the farm. The basis of biodynamic farming is composted manure and straw, swept out of the stalls at milking time, allowed to break down, then spread on the fields.

Michael does not plow his fields—a practice that turns the green matter under and encourages an anaerobic fermentation. Instead he uses a chisel plow that keeps the green matter on top but which encourages a top-down, aerobic fermentation. He also uses the biodynamic preps—described as homeopathic preparations for the earth and viewed by modern agriculture as a kind of witchcraft or voodoo practiced by the superstitious. The two main preps are horn manure and horn silica, prepared by burying manure and silica in cows' horns for the winter and retrieving them in the spring. They are mixed with water by a long process of stirring in alternate directions—much as the homeopathic physician prepares his medicines—and sprayed over the farm in a fine mist. The horn manure is applied to the earth in the early spring and the horn silica is sprayed into the air in June when the "forces of light" are at their greatest.

Silica holds a preeminent place in biodynamic agriculture as silica is said to "attract the cosmic forces," creating a matrix for optimum vitality. That is why biodynamic farmers keep the horns on their cows. The silica in the horns is said to attract the forces of light as they graze, and that makes for milk with a much higher energy level. "One of my customers tested the energetics of my milk," said Michael. "Commercial milk tested 12 on a scale of 100 and commercial organic milk tested 13. My milk tested 89."

Whether or not this mysticism is true, horns on cows have practical value. Their pattern of growth shows the farmer whether or not the nutrition of the cows is good. According to Michael, when the cows are well nourished, their horns will grow upward. Cows with less than adequate nutrition will have horns that point forward or down. Long before the advent of biodynamics, the old farming books recognized that keeping the horns on was healthier. The bull that had his horns produced more sperm. The explanation was that the horns acted as a cooling apparatus.

The biodynamic preps are said to increase soil fertility by an organizing principle. But the Schmidts also recognize that the quality of the soil is dependent on the minerals that it contains and the amount of microscopic and insect life that it supports. This year they began applying paramagnetic rock to increase the fertility of their farm. Paramagnetic rock attracts other elements as a magnet does, but does not impart magnetism. Bacteria and earthworms thrive after the application of paramagnetic rock, a sign of increased soil fertility. The most noticeable effect is an increase in the yellowness of the butter. In fact, even the milk turns slightly yellow now that the soil has been enriched with paramagnetic rock.


The Schmidts cows stay inside all winter but the smell of the barn is sweet and fresh. The milking parlor is kept scrupulously clean. As a precaution, Michael sends his milk to a lab for testing every month and it always tests very low in bacteria.

Besides fresh milk, the Schmidts produce cream, sour cream, a soft cheese called quark, hard cheese, fresh cheeses and butter. Apprentices in Dorothea's kitchen also make bread and other baked goods. From the farm come salami, liverwurst and sausages. Michael sells eggs and, in the summer months, biodynamically grown vegetables from an adjacent CSA with 80 members.

Like everything else on Glencolton Farms, the pigs are an unusual breed. Michael chose the Texas red wattle hog. They have prominent tusks and distinctive wattles under the chin. They were an original Texas breed that turned wild when farmers switched to modern, high-yield pigs. A few red wattles were recaptured in the 1980s and introduced to his farm in 1985. He lets his pigs out in the summer when their only food is pasture and whey. The people from the Guelph University agriculture department told him that they'd be riddled with worms within a year but no worms ever developed. Pigs and cows are one of the primary synergies of the farm as, unlike calves and humans, pigs can thrive on the waste products of cheese and butter making—whey and skimmed milk.


Not long after the Schmidts bought their farm, word spread about their biodynamic products and people began to come from as far as Toronto to buy them. Many wanted farm fresh milk and they liked the idea of purchasing directly from the farm. Michael developed a cow-lease program wherein the consumers could lease a cow or portion of a cow to supply fresh milk. The program was called My Cow's Milk. Sales increased in 1992 when he opened a store on the farm. He was told by one farmer that the people at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Dairy Inspection Branch, were aware of his program but wouldn't interfere unless it became widely known.

The Milk War began in 1994 after the filming of a Canadian Broadcast Company documentary on Glencolton. "It was our own fault," says Michael. "We should never have agreed to the publicity." CBC pre-publicity said that the documentary "would shake the entire dairy industry."

The first battle in the Milk War came two days before the documentary was to be aired. The Owen Sound Health Unit raided the farm, seizing $800 worth of dairy products. The products were tested to prove that they were unpasteurized but no test was done to find out whether there were any harmful bacteria present. Charges were laid under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. The Owen Sound Health Unit and the Ontario Milk Marketing Board (OMMB) announced that the Schmidts dairy operation was a health threat, but none of the families drinking this risky product was warned by the Ministry of Health that they were consuming something harmful.

In April at a Toronto farmers' market, officials of the North York Health Unit conducted a raid, supported by two police cruisers, which proceeded to block Michael Schmidt' van and prevent his leaving. A two-hour search followed but the officials found no dairy products.

Michael's jury trial occurred in May of 1994. The government argued that raw milk carried all sorts of hazards. Dr. Murray McQuigge claimed that 22 cases of food-borne disease related to the consumption of raw milk had occurred during the past three years. Even farmers who drank raw milk were cited as hazards because they could be carriers of bacteria. One government witness was an undercover agent who had bought butter and milk and had sent a sample to the lab. The results showed high levels of bacteria, but under cross examination it was revealed that the agent had waited six weeks to send in the sample!

The prosecution trotted out all the arguments against raw milk that had been appearing in the Toronto press. Raw milk had no health benefits, said the experts, but was a source of TB, Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Coxiella (which causes Q fever) Streptococci and Staphylococci. Although cases of contamination with VTEC (verotoxic E. coli) have never been linked to consumption of raw milk, that did not prevent health officials from engaging in guilt by association. Officials also cited death of a Peterborough infant who mysteriously died of meningitis in 1984. A panel of medical experts said that the baby caught the bacteria from another baby in the hospital nursery whose mother drank raw milk during her pregnancy!

Many witnesses for the defense presented evidence that raw milk had proven therapeutic for them. They voiced concerns about the indiscriminate use of antibiotics and bovine growth hormones which, although technically illegal in Canada, are smuggled over the border and used in some herds. A number stated that they were lactose intolerant and unable to consume pasteurized milk. Dr. Ken McAlister, a general practitioner, testified that he had never encountered any health problems among hundreds of patients who consumed raw milk He cited a 400-bed hospital in Germany where raw milk was given as a treatment for many serious diseases. The defense noted that 17 American states and all European countries allow the sale of raw milk and raw milk cheese.

Under cross examination Dr. McQuigge, the government's chief witness, admitted that TB and brucellosis are rare in dairy herds now and that Salmonella is more likely a cause of contamination in meat or eggs than milk. Meningitis has often been traced to contaminated water supply, as was typhoid and other bacterial diseases. Schmidt's lawyers forced the health department to retreat to the lame argument that "flying birds over the fields might drop E. coli and contaminate the milk."

The presiding judge said that the verdict would take four weeks but it actually took four months. During this period, the Schmidts continued to provide raw milk. But in August, 1994, the day before the verdict, Michael came out of his barn to the sight of police cruisers. At the behest of one humorless inspector, the police confiscated milk, butter and cheese. Michael convinced them to dump it rather than take it away so at least the pigs would profit.

After the verdict, in which the Schmidts raw milk was found to be a health hazard, there was a civil trial that charged the Schmidts with seven counts, ranging from mislabeling to resistance to the direction of a health officer.

During this period, other damage occurred on the farm, damage that could not be directly laid to health authorities. Milking machines were destroyed and two cows were found dead. The building that housed the cheese equipment was broken into four times. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) investigated with no results. All they could do was warn the Schmidts not to let their daughters walk to school and to "be careful."

There was one more official raid in which the Owen Sound Health Unit attempted to remove butter from the Schmidts private cooler. A heated exchange between the authorities and Michael ensued. The authorities left without the butter but the Schmidts were punished for defending their own food against confiscation with more charges.

The most sinister skirmish in the Milk War occurred when an employee of the Schmidts, actually a cousin, surprised three men who were in the process of breaking into the cheese house. One agent was Canadian but the other two were East Germans—he recognized their accent and also remembered reading that East German intelligence agents had been hired as "private detectives" in North America. The cousin was thrown into a van and forced to tell them where Michael Schmidt was at the time. Then they drove to that house, set up infrared cameras and listening devices, and stayed for half an hour. After this, the cousin was pushed out of the van and told not to tell anyone about the incident or "he would be sorry." The Schmidts again called the OPP for investigation but without results. Local farmers told the Schmidts that they had been asked if they would house surveillance teams. For a period of several months, vehicles were parked on the road close to the farm both day and night. Whenever farm personnel approached these cars, they took off. License plate numbers were recorded and passed on to the police who said they were unable to trace them.

The police were never able to tell Michael who was responsible for the communist-style surveillance but it is not hard to pick the most likely culprit. In Canada about 80 percent of the milk comes from confinement cows, and one or two corporations, one of which is a beer manufacturer, control at least 50 percent of these dairy operations. It is now known that certain "public relations" firms offer surveillance of rivals as a service to their clients.

The civil trial went badly. The lawyers were not very good and missed deadlines. Just before the trail began, the Schmidts farm insurance was dropped. Michael called numerous other agents, all of whom told him that he could not be insured. The lack of insurance forced him to plead guilty to the civil charges. Immediately afterwards, his insurance was reinstated.


When affairs at the farm were at their lowest ebb, Michael and Dorothea took a walk into their fields. Michael had lost his will to fight and Dorothea was discouraged. It was at that moment, when both were absorbed in thought, that he was gored by one of his bulls. The horns that he had deliberately left on his cows gave him a huge gash and caused him to spend over one week in intensive care.

Rudolf Steiner taught that the farm is a self-contained unit and that everything the farmer needs to know can be learned through patient observation of the life on the farm. The bull that gored Michael Schmidt carried the most important message of all—that his only hope was to fight back.

The Schmidts enlisted the help of several friends and launched a publicity campaign. The agricultural press had, in general, been favorable to their struggles and the many positive articles and letters it published were an embarrassment to the health authorities. In fact, Greg Sorboro, Minister of Corporate Affairs, publicly came to his defense. In a press release, Michael proposed a two-year research project on the sale of raw milk, supervised by the government. By counting the number of dairy farmers and estimating the size of their families, Michael was able to claim that about 50,000 people still drank raw milk in Ontario. One newspaper ran the following headline, "Huge Raw Milk Black Market," and there were a number of editorials calling for the legalization of raw milk sales. In Canada, it is illegal to even give raw milk away.

Milk production in Canada is controlled by the Milk Marketing Board which was set up to stabilize milk sales and keep prices high for farmers. The Milk Marketing Board sells quotas or cow-ownership rights. If you want to milk cows, you pay $20,000 to $25,000 per head of cow. (The fee is actually for one kilogram of butterfat per day.) The quota system was a temporary boon to dairy farmers but now that the industry has become so consolidated and the costs of confinement dairying so high, dairy farm income is declining. Worse, the quota system has become a way of keeping "difficult" farmers in line. Should a farmer want to increase his profit by selling raw milk, the Milk Marketing Board has the power to take away the farmer's quotas, effectively putting him out of business.

Fortunately, the Milk Marketing Board had no hold on the Schmidts because they sold their quotas in 1992-1993 and used the money to build the cheesehouse and the barn.

But it was the Milk Marketing Board that would decide on Michael's proposal for a research project. Michael and Dorothea and two supporters faced about a dozen members, only one of whom, a man named John Core, did all the talking. "It was like a Russian court," says Michael. "John Core did all the talking and the rest had their heads down." Core spoke a long time in bureaucratese, but the answer was no. Schmidt then asked the others whether they were all farmers. They nodded. "Then I am totally ashamed," he said, "but we never stopped giving milk to the people and we will continue."

The Schmidts and their followers then ran to the press conference they had organized. They announced that they had been "thrown out" of the meeting. Michael then officially and publicly stated that if the police came back on his farm once more, he would go on a hunger strike. "The government then had only two choices," said Michael, "either ignore me (and admit that we were right) or press forward with a full attack, one that would backfire and make matters worse for the government."

Later at an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of a new store in the district, Michael wrote on the ribbon "For a better communication between the government and Glencolton Farms." All signed it, including the Minister of Agriculture and Food—there were 80 people watching so he could not refuse. The ribbon was cut and Michael kept it. Later he learned that the piece of ribbon signed by himself and the Minister is a binding contract.

As a result of the trials, the farm store was closed and the six local employees were laid off. Donations from individuals in Canada and the US totaled $20,000 but financial pressures forced the Schmidts to sell 500 acres of their 600-acre farm and even sell off some of the cows. At their lowest ebb, the Schmidts were down to just four cows.

In the summer of 1997, the Schmidts held a fund-raiser on their farm, one that allowed Michael to display his talents as a musician. In the early 1970s Schmidt founded and conducted the Chamber Youth orchestra in Stuttgart, Germany. In Canada he founded, directed and conducted the Saugeen Bach choir of 75 voices. The choir went on a highly successful tour in Germany and Austria. The 1997 music festival featured a performance of Carmina Burana, the Beethoven piano concertos and an opera by Mozart. Glencolton Farms has since been the venue for a series of house concerts featuring classical music. The biodynamic farm, according to Steiner, will be the basis of true culture and the Milk War allowed the Schmid's to set the example for farms of the future.


The Schmidts are now back up to 25 cows with a goal of 36. In spite of his troubles, Michael is the only dairy farmer in the district who has not gone out of business.

While the government has remained quiescent, Michael and Dorothea have set up a new system for getting raw milk to the many Canadians who want it— not a lease system that he used before but one that involves the actual sale of the cow. One share is worth one-fourth of a cow and costs $250. Share owners also pay a fee of $2 per liter to cover the cost of the milkers' time and the expenses of the farm, including the cheese operation that must conform to Canadian health regulations. In Canada, organic milk sells for $2.49 per liter and conventional milk sells for $1.87 per liter. If the cow dies they replace it and shares in calves are sold to more customers. Shareholders sign a formal contract and receive a card that allows them to obtain their own milk.

Once a week, Michael begins his day before dawn to make the three-hour drive into town. In Toronto, share owners line up to pick up their milk from his old school bus, now painted blue and converted into a store. He also provides other products of the farm—bread, sausage, salami, bacon, cheese, cream and beautiful yellow butter.

From 1983 to the present, and all throughout the Milk War, Schmidt continued to give lectures to students of Guelph University, McGill University and Sir Sanford Fleming College. He learned that there was a big file on him in Guelph but the Milk War has made him a folk hero. "People are waking up to the fact," says Michael, "that the issue of raw milk has nothing to do with protecting the public and everything to do with protecting those who control the food supply."

The big excitement was the realization of how many people depended on his milk. "It was a revolting thought," he says, "that people could not get healthy milk."

Are We Stuck With ‘Blah, Blah, Blah, … Bang’?, Andrew C. Revkin, August 4.

I was struck by a comment that followed my latest piece on cutting disaster risks, reacting to this line: “Only direct experience seems to trigger change.”

Yeah. It seems Homo S “Sapiens” at large needs to first get hit by the wall before changing path. There will be always someone debating (denying) the science (evidence) of walls and bricks. We can’t falsify the theory about that wall ahead, so it’s no science, blah, blah, blah, … bang. — Florifulgurator (Dadaist, Germany)

This characterization of the human habit of dawdling in the face of looming risks reminded me of earlier contributions here on global warming by David Ropeik, a former journalist and longtime student of risk communication. His book (with George Gray), “Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What’s Really Safe and What’s Really Dangerous in the World Around You (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), is a clear-eyed guide to why we often get in harm’s way and also fear the wrong things. (Here’s a 2002 Times interview with Mr. Ropeik on the “fear factor.”)

I think it’s worth considering his comments as a group here, and opening a conversation about whether we have the capacity to shift from our sprint of the past couple of centuries to a more reasoned marathon pace good for the long haul. Should there be an Intergovernmental Panel on Human Nature?

Here’s one of David’s posts, deconstructing why the psychology of climate makes it such a hard fit for the political arena:

Talking, rather than acting, remains a political option because the electorates on which the pols rely for their jobs are not sufficiently threatened by climate change, personally, to make it an issue on which politicians have to act. The psychological literature on the perception of risk has shown that we fear, and demand protection from, risks that can happen to us, not to polar bears or ice caps.

We say in surveys that we are concerned about climate change, the way we have always said in surveys that we are concerned about the environment. But the environment has never been much of a voting issue, nor will climate change become one, until we as individuals truly feel that something bad might happen to us. Which makes McCain sound perceptive, because long term issues like climate change do not portend tangible imminent threat. And without a sense of being personally threatened, we don’t act much more than those yakking Senators do.

Until a majority of us feel personally threatened by specific and significant negative impacts of climate change, we’re just not going to be concerned enough to act. It’s frustrating, since the discipline of risk communication is available to the climate change communicators, but they don’t appear to be paying attention to what it has to offer.

More on this at onrisk.blogspot.com.

The science of human behavior, particularly the psychology of risk perception, robustly shows that we use two systems to make judgments about risk; reason and affect, facts and feelings. It is simply naïve to disregard this inescapable truth and presume that reason and intellect alone will carry the day. That’s just not how the human animal behaves. Even as potentially catastrophic as climate change might be, if people don’t sense climate change as a direct personal threat, reason alone won’t convince them that the costs of action are worth it.

There are still too few scientists and policy leaders describing the potential impacts of climate change on a local level. This is an admittedly dicey business because it’s hard to know specifically what changing the climate of the planet is going to do to Denver or Delhi or Dusseldorf. But there is plenty of scientific evidence of the harm climate change might do at the local level. These potential local risks need to be emphasized, in the concrete terms that will give people more of an idea of what climate change might do to them.

My concern about the last paragraph above is related to the high level of uncertainty in regional climate predictions. Note how the word “might” has to be used to stay true to the science, which would immediately deflate the concreteness that David says is necessary to trigger action. Does this mean it’s an impossible task?

Here’s another comment by David providing a pretty sobering assessment of whether reason can ever dominate deeper human traits, including tribalism and what might be called “now-ism,” as societies weigh choices in the next few decades:

The very concept of sustainability is predicated on reason…that humans can see the collective harms their behaviors are doing, and, as rational actors, correct those behaviors. But there is overwhelming evidence from all sorts of fields that our behaviors are not so much a product of reason as they are the result of our overpowering animal instinct to survive. Nearly all of your stories are evidence of the consequences that arise from the fact that we are still human ANIMALS, doing what evolution has programmed us to do…acquire the resources that improve our chances of survival (and procreation).

Even the argument that “Behaving the way we are now is destructive, and hurts our chances for survival” is an argument based on reason. It requires individuals to think rationally and act in the name of the greater common good rather than instinctively in their own self-interests. We’re just not programmed that way.
As Garret Hardin wrote in his famous essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons” (Science, 162(1968):1243-1248), “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.”

So here we are in a globalized world of 6 billion individuals instinctively seeking what they can get from the commons we’re all a part of, going to at least at least 8 billion before a predicted population crest, each one of us contributing to the mess about which you report, and our hopes rest on behaving more rationally, when the evidence says that’s not how we behave.

Kind of a bummer. But I think this fundamental truth has to be considered in the whole discussion about the damage we’re doing to our future and the hopes for finding some better way. This isn’t an argument, just an observation which I offer for consideration in your future thinking and reporting.

Finally, here’s a snippet from David’s latest comment, reacting to my piece on the whiplash effect in climate science and journalism:

The psychology of risk perception also confronts us with the reality that issues like climate change just don’t ring our alarm bells. We use a dual process of reason and affect to gauge the threats we face. Intellectually, climate change is threatening, sure. Majorities say so in nearly every survey. But emotionally, climate change is distant…an idea…not a threat that individuals feel is going to directly impact them. You see this in surveys too. Ask a few friends “Name one way that climate change will significantly negatively impact you in the next 10 or 20 years.” Most of the people I know struggle with that one. Which is why, while majorities say they are concerned about climate change, they shrink to minorities when asked to support carbon taxes or higher energy prices or, God forbid, changing personal lifestyles. Without feeling personally threatened, people just don’t respond to risks urgently at all. It’s just the way it is.

I don’t suggest we’re trapped in these realities. There is hope here. It strikes me that all these insights are potential tools for thinking about how to reach the public with the information necessary to motivate the behavioral and political changes we need to get our arms around this threat.

So can we grow past our basic nature? Jesse Ausubel at Rockefeller University has written that “because the human brain does not change, technology must.”
Or is there something deeper than technology that must change? Interestingly enough, Jesse’s brother, Kenny Ausubel, the founder of Bioneers, is pursuing social and ethical evolution framing choices around nature’s bounty, and limits.

Interesting family, interesting questions.

Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Camila Barbosa - Rainha de Bateria & Adriana Alves - Madrinha da Bateria (and in the last two pictures that is just exactly what she is doing):
Carnival, Carnaval, Camila BarbosaCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Adriana AlvesCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Adriana AlvesCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Adriana AlvesCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Adriana AlvesCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Adriana AlvesCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Adriana Alves
Carnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Camilla BabosaCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Camilla BabosaCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola NegraCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Adriana AlvesCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Adriana AlvesCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Camila Barbosa, Adriana AlvesCarnival, Carnaval, Escola de Samba Pérola Negra, Camila Barbosa, Adriana Alves