Friday, 14 January 2011

Fire, flood and pestilence

The new year begins with a raft of potential and actual horror stories. In Moordijk (near Rotterdam) a fire at a chemical plant last week was bought under control - but has left excessively high levels of lead and dioxins on surrounding farmlands - and farmers unable to sell their produce (milk and winter vegetables) until the actual levels have been established. While the root vegetables can be warehoused the dairy farmers could face real problems.

In Germany contamination of animal feed with oils used in industry and the automative industry has led to high levels of dioxin being detected in eggs, chicken and pork. As is always the case when the 'conventional' (read industrial) food system suffers from poor oversight and supply chain management, people turn to organic produce. Reports are that produce (especially meat products) are flying off the shelves of organic stores faster than they can be restocked.

And finally, the Rhine is at an unprecedently high level after the thaw over the past ten days. While nothing as severe as the floods that are ravaging Queensland - and the mudslides that have affected the favelas in Brazil - there are flood warnings over much of Germany and citizens have been sandbagging major cities like Frankfurt and Cologne. Here in Wageningen the entire 'uiterwaarden' - (the water meadows) are completely under water, which is lapping at the edges of the main protective dike around the town. (Photos to follow when I have re-enabled my bluetooth technology). In eight years of living here I have never seen the waters so high. From the top of the Wageningen mountain one can look out over a completely water covered landscape, stretching all the way to the dikes of the Betuwe.

In England recently there has been much discussion about undercover police operations in the climate change movement. Apparently the police have been maintaining at least two 'moles' within the movement - both of whom have played an active role in the campaign (one of whom went native). The discussions have focused around whether the movement poses such a threat to society as we know it (I thought climate change did- but there we go) and whether the police can justify the cost (and the moral authority) involved in spying on a legitimate civil society movement. The police spokesman claimed that the campaigners were planning to sit-in at - and try to lose down- a power station that supplies two million homes (+ businesses, hospitals etc.) with electricity, and that this was justification for their activities. In the same week we have the road hauliers making veiled threats about taking direct action to protest about rising fuel prices. Ten years ago they almost bought the country to its knees by blockading fuel refineries. They are hinting that they may do they same again. I'm just wondering whether the police also have moles inside the 'truckers camp' or whether, as has so often been the case in the past, surveillance operations are just reserved for lefties and other 'undesirable elements'.

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