Friday, December 31, 2010

Dell upgrades Android OS for Streak and messes with camera

OK, so I have a Dell Streak, I wait patiently for the Android upgrade to version 2.2.
I get it, install all good. Camera app seems to have an improved interface. Great.

But, oh no.. I am now taking VGA snaps?? How did that happen.. when ..? And how do I change the settings back?

Poor documentation on it, rude behaviour switching the res. The settings button for changing the res brings up a menu but the part with the resolution etc is hidden, with no indicator to its existence.


To change the settings of your camera on the Dell Streak with Android 2.2:

1. Open Camera app
2. Click on the settings icon at the top
3. In the pop-up menu you will see options for contrast and brightness. But the down below there are more options, you need to slide the contrast/brightness options up to see them. Swipe the scroll menu in an upward motion to do this. Options to change Picture Size, Picture Quality, Scene type, Anti-banding (50Hz vs. 60Hz), and the Shutter Sound on/off will NOW be available.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Agribusiness and Chemical Corp's have fooled us for long enough

Lappé is critical of modern livestock feeding practices. We feed ruminants grain, she says, not because it is a food they would eat in nature, but because we want to fatten them faster. They used to convert grasses that were inedible for us into high-grade protein; but today one half of the world's grain goes, not to feed people, but to fatten animals, and it doesn't all turn into flesh. More than half of that food is is excreted by the livestock or used for energy. Lappé calls livestock animals "protein disposals" rather than "protein factories." "And now," she says, "we're performing the same disappearing trick with the world's fish supply, in fish farms, feeding fish to fish." Why have we adopted such inefficient agricultural practices? Lappé says it's because we produce for the market, not to feed the hungry: "The hundreds of millions of people who go hungry cannot create a sufficient 'market demand' for the fruits of the earth. So more and more of it flows into the mouths of livestock, which convert it into what the better-off can afford. Corn becomes filet mignon. Sardines become salmon."

[Vandana Shiva, winner of "the alternative Nobel prize" - Right Livelihood Award] point to reams of studies by universities, the UN and FAO (the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization) showing that the most productive form of agriculture is not our modern, tractor-serviced, big field monocultures, but multiple crop (termed "polyculture"), manual labor-intensive small holdings. As we've seen with water and livestock and now with agriculture, the natural physics of this planet favors variety and small, localized production. FAO charts of countries from countries like the Sudan, Nigeria and Uganda, Burma, India and Nepal all show maximum productivity on tiny farms ranging in size from between one and two hectares -- the typical peasant smallholding.

When a farm gets larger, productivity drops. In Brazil, for example, Shiva points out, "the productivity of a farm of up to 10 hectares [25 acres] was $85 per hectare, while the productivity of 500-hectare farms [1235 acres] was only $2 per hectare. In India, farms of up to 5 acres [2 hectares] had a productivity of 735 rupees per acre. while 35-acre farms [14 hectares] productivity levels were about half of that." Green Revolution methods, which need machinery, expensive chemicals and monocultures, are not suitable for smallholdings, and the heavy subsidies and government incentives that have accompanied them demand big fields. This has meant that over the past thirty or forty years, government subsidies have gone to larger, less efficient farms and agribusinesses rather than to the small, more productive farmers.

In India, Shiva says, "the displacement of varied crops, which were mixtures of cereals, legumes and oilseeds, by monocultures of High Yielding Variety (HYV) crops for export, has undermined food self-sufficiency in a drastic way." The small peasant, who concentrates on food for her family and does not fit in the cash crop package, is displaces by the subsidized, richer farmer and loses access to the food she used to grow for herself. Ironically, this loss has ended up being expressed as a food "surplus" in many national statistics. Both Indian economist V.K.R. Rao and nutritionist C. Gopalan agree with Shiva's analysis that the "surplus" food stocks that have built up in India since the Green Revolution - up from 63 million tons in 1966 to 128 million tons in 1985 -- have been created not by better yields, but by people losing access to their land and not having any money. In other words, this grain goes into warehouses because an increasing number of Indians cannot afford to buy it. Statistics also show that during this same period, "food consumption dropped from 480 grams per capita per day, in 1965, to 463 grams per day per capita in 1985." That doesn't sound as if more poor people are getting fed by industrial farming.

[..] Shiva says, "it would be no exaggeration to say that small, family-run farms are the answer to our terrible problems of declining agricultural productivity and vanishing biodiversity." When countries have pulled back from large-scale industrial farming for a variety of political and economic reason, and especially when they've also paid attention to indigenous knowledge, they have experienced benefits in terms of food production that are nothing short of astounding.

In Indonesia, subsidies for the use of pesticides were eliminated in 1987, and restrictions were introduced on the use of 57 pesticides in rice-growing. By 1990, not only had pesticide use decreased by 50 percent, but rice yields had increased by 15 percent. Farmers' net incomes increased by $18 per farmer, per season, and the government was saving $120 million a year. What's more, this $120 million of Third World money was no longer going out to enrich large chemical corporations, it became available for much-needed internal social programs. In Bangladesh, a "No Pest" program led to another reduction in pesticides use of a full 76 percent. This did not cost the country any of their rice harvest, as they' feared, but instead gave them a yield increase of 11 percent.

A United Nations Development Program project on sustainable agriculture introduced an indigenous system of raised fields that had evolved in the Altiplano of the Andes to nearby South American countries. These methods tripled and quadrupled yields in Honduras, for example, raising them from 400 kilograms per hectare to between 1,200 and 1,600 kilograms per hectare. Finally, the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based think tank, reviewed sustainable agriculture projects affecting almost two million households in the Third Worlds, and found that farmers; yields of wheat, corn and sorghum doubled when they switched from industrial, high external-input agriculture to "biodiversity-based, low-input," organic polycultures.

So, even with an extremely inefficient system -- industrial agriculture setup to benefit export markets -- we have half again as much food as we need to feed the planet. If we implemented more small polycultures, we could feed a lot more people -- and they'd have the land security they need to take care of themselves without expensive and politically and socially difficult redistribution programs. To say that small poly cultures meet the sustainability requirement of double dividends is putting it mildly. Not only have the countries which have maintained or introduced such programs saved their land and water systems from more contamination by dangerous poisons, but they have simultaneously achieved what the poisons were supposed to be doing all along: they have increased their food supply. This is so contrary to what we've been told about chemical farming for the past fifty years that we were hardly able to believe it, and we spent a great deal of research time on this question. But again and again, all around the world in every kind of agricultural production, we found that growing more food does not work the way agribusiness and the multinational chemical companies have been telling us.

Thousands of examples coming in from around the world in scientific research done by governments, NGOs and universities support the conclusion that the benefits of industrialization to farmers, both Third and First World, were not only greatly exaggerated but hid a tragic contradiction. One of the reasons that so many farmers all over the world have been forced off an increasingly degraded and poisoned landscape since agricultural industrialization first began is that, for what seemed to be very good reasons, we collectively decided to value the kinds of wealth that is created through industrialization over that created by nature.

The tragedy for people struggling to grow food, whether they are peasants in Bangladesh or wheat farmers ion South Dakota, lies clearly in the underlying goal of "industrialized" agriculture. It was created not to help farmers, but to provide cheap food for a growing urban population, the labor force for expanding industries. In other words, as agricultural economist John Ikerd says, "Sustainable farm profits are inherently inconsistent with industrial agriculture." Its goal is not to make farmers prosperous and keep them on the land, but to get them off. And this might help explain why the industrialization of agriculture in the Third World is causing chaos and misery, and also why its architects seem to be unmoved by that distress. They have another vision of human well-being.

Less than 2 percent of the population of the United States produces all the food, and people have to spend only about 10 cents out of every dollar to buy that food. Even more remarkably, the producer gets only one penny of those then cents, while the other nine cents go to the marketing and chemical companies.
extract from Good News for a Change by David Suzuki and Holly Dressel

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Easter Bunny -- why

Despite its Christian veneer Easter is a pagan festival which celebrates Eostre, the European goddess of fertility who loaned her name to oestrogen and the oestrous cycle. The rabbit and egg were chosen by the ancestors of the Europeans as symbols of fertility.
extract from - The Future Eaters

The true costs of farming

Big Operations, for example, operate with a skeleton crew of perhaps four people in charge of producing 50,000 pigs a year; the pigs are overcrowded, under cared for and must be fed hormones and antibiotics in such an environment, or the overcrowding and stress will cause infections and keep them from eating properly. This causes a serious rise in cost for society, in terms of increased cancers and other diseases in a human population that ingests the hormones and antibiotics that are fed to the pigs.

It also leads to the contamination of rural soil and watercourses by the high concentrations of manure and the undesirable chemicals in the manure. Almost none of the expenses such practices entail are reflected in the producers' costs or the final consumer price. That means, for example, that pork produced in eastern Canada and the United States, which is habitually sold overseas to Asian markets, is subsidized not just by national governments, but by cash-strapped rural taxpayers in Quebec, Alberta, North Carolina, Georgia or anywhere else there is a concentration of industrial hog farms.

If the true costs were added, no producer could afford to shoulder them and continue to raise meat in such an environmentally damaging way. They would have to adapt existing, healthy methods that make the meat somewhat more expensive but a lot less dangerous, provide more rural jobs and have an actual moral base.
extracted from Good News for a Change - David Suzuki & Holly Dressel (pg 65)