For Food Security

Day Five: For Food Security

I feel more conflicted about this one than I have about my previous gratitude topics. Not that food security is not a marvelous blessing–it truly is, in every sense of the word. 

But I’m aware that all around me–in my community, across my nation, and around the world, there are many, many people who do not share this blessing.

To express public gratitude for it, in the knowledge of such widespread lack, almost feels like gloating. That’s not my intention at all. If I could, I’d extend this blessing to everyone in the world, so that no one anywhere has to go to bed hungry, or wonder where their next meal will come from.

Here in the USA, today is Thanksgiving. Everyone in the country is presumed to be eating their fill, then waddling into the next room to zone out in a “food coma” while watching American football games. However, despite the best efforts of community charities, not everyone will be able to do that. Statesman Jacques Diouf put it well:

Everyone alive should be acknowledged to have a basic human right to adequate, nutritious food. That this is ignored, pushed aside as inconvenient, left to the vaguaries of climate change, governmental style or unregulated capitalism, or even actively subverted so hunger can be used as a weapon is inexcusable. Yes, people have been doing it for millennia; it’s a crime against humanity every single time, in my opinion.

How can persons of conscience work to fight food insecurity? Acknowledging that we who can eat well are blessed, we can make charitable donations on both the local (link to find US agencies) and international (this link: UN) level to help fill immediate shortfalls.

But we also must advocate for longer-range goals: 

Creating systemic improvement is a large, difficult goal, fraught with practical difficulties, cultural pitfalls, and unintended results. It also is desperately necessary, as long as people anywhere are hungry.

Creating changes in public opinion is a way to begin. Funding empirical studies by unbiased researchers is a reasonable step forward. Involving all involved parties in design of solutions is a reasonable, respectful necessity that is likeliest to result in the best solutions. Many initiatives have already begun. We all must work together to bring the best ones to fruition.

IMAGES: The “Seven Days of Gratitude” design is my own creation, for well or ill. If for some reason You’d like to use it, please feel free to do so, but I request attribution and a link back to this post. The “Food security definition” quote by Pattie Baker is from Quozio, via Pinterest; her book Food for My Daughters is available from Amazon Smile and other fine booksellers. The Jacques Diouf quote is identified as sourced from Live58, though I couldn’t find it on their site; I did find it on the website for GRIID (the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy). The quote from Ray Offenheiser of Oxfam America is courtesy of The Huffington Post, via Pinterest. Many thanks to all!

Renewing the floors–the hard way

The Artdog Image of Interest

Note: due to events beyond my control, we missed the Image of Interest last weekend. Therefore, this week, we get two!

The Floor Scrapers, by Gustave Caillebotte (1875), currently in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France.

Today’s Image of Interest is Gustave Caillebotte‘s The Floor Scrapers (1875), regarded by some scholars as “one of the greatest genre paintings of the 19th Century,” and also a masterful realist work.  Genre paintings, in contrast to paintings of classical or heroic subjects, sought to portray scenes from everyday life.

Rejected by the Salon for its “vulgar subject,” this painting moved Caillebotte more firmly into the Impressionist school, and placed a spotlight on the urban working class, just as Gustave Courbet‘s The Stone Breakers (1849) and a host of others had focused on rural workers a generation earlier.

Some commentators have made a point of linking the nude torsos of the workers, the sensuous lighting, and the speculation that the artist himself was homosexual. This may indeed have been a factor, but as many others have pointed out, the dynamic approach to a previously unattended subject, the use of light, and the sympathy demonstrated for the workers and their labor all deserve recognition.

IMAGE: Many thanks to “Art and Labor in the Nineteenth Century,” by Alice J. Walkiewicz, edited by Amy Raffel for this image.

How sick are we?

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

I find it difficult to understand how people can disagree with this, but there’s a whole bunch out there who apparently do. And who also manage to sleep just fine at night. There’s got to be a better way.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Charlie Gaines’ “Union Stuff” Board on Pinterest for this image. Also to the late Cesar Chavez.

Diego Rivera says it with flowers

The Artdog Image of Interest

The Flower Carrier, by Diego Rivera

Throughout time, artists have often turned to workers in various industries for inspiration. I’ve been spotlighting a few examples this month, in honor of Labor DayHokusai’s rice farmers and the bakers and brewers immortalized by the ancient Egyptian modeler for the Tomb of Meketre all worked with grain, to produce an indispensable staple for their societies.

But not every trade focuses on society’s most basic needs. Today’s artist, Diego Rivera, was a prominent painter and muralist in the first half of the 20th Century. He was trained in Mexico and Europeworked in Paris, was a great friend of Amodeo Modigliani and other members of the artists’ group at Montparnasse, and explored cubism at roughly the same time as PicassoBraque, and Gris. His mature style also drew upon the imagery of the Mayan stelae of his native Mexico.

Rivera also was a dedicated atheist, socialist and supporter of communism. Many of his murals and paintings celebrate the common working person. The Flower Carrier, painted in oil and tempera on Masonite in 1935 (original title: Cargador de Flores) is one of several works Rivera created, focused on workers in the Mexican cut flower trade. It was a recurrent theme, often featuring calla lilies and female workers. This painting is currently in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Other Rivera paintings that feature flowers and the workers who collected, carried, and sold them include Flower Day (1925), The Flower Seller (1941), The Flower Vendor (1949), and another Flower Carrier (1953).

Khan Academy has collected many of these flower paintings in a short video. I discovered it after I’d written most of this article, but the writer of the Khan Academy piece and I are definitely on the same page about the message of these paintings. Rivera has used the beauty of the flowers to call attention to the arduous lives of the workers.

IMAGE: Many thanks to the Diego Rivera website, for this image.

Consider this equation

The Artdog Quote of the Week

If all employers followed this advice, they’d be paying their people a living wage, and supporting their roles as family members in society through paid sick leave, parental leave, and/or personal leave.

And we’d all be better off.

IMAGE: Many thanks to WSI 15013’s “Right On” Pinterest Page and LinkedIn. Also to the late Stephen R. Covey.

A powerful and effective voice

The Artdog Quote of the Week

 

Happy Labor Day.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Better World Quotes and Bruce Springsteen, for today’s affirmation of the value of labor unions.

Prepared

The Monday-morning quarterbacking has begun: even before it stops raining, people are second-guessing whether Houston and other Harvey-hit parts of Texas and the Gulf Coast were “prepared.”

Exactly how does one prepare for such an event?

It’s harder in some places than others. Houston is a sprawling metropolis of 6.5 million peoplelying no more than 125 feet above sea level, with an extensive network of bayous all through it and untold acres of impermeable pavement to concentrate the runoff. As I write this, the rain is slowing down, but Harvey is easily the wettest storm on record in the Lower 48.

Exactly 12 years ago: Hurricane Katrina flooded the I-10/I-610 interchange in northwest New Orleans and Metairie, LA. (Wikimedia/AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Niemi)

I’m sure I can’t be the only person who’s been getting an uneasy feeling of “déjà vu all over again” (thanks, Yogi!) when listening to or reading about Harvey’s devastation. We heard the same basic stories of inadequate infrastructure, inadequate shelter facilities, stretched-thin rescue services, and unequal impacts to richer and poorer communities (I’ll give you one guess who’s getting hit worse) during and after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and Hurricane Sandy in New York/New Jersey.

A washed-out bridge, and then some: Mantoloking, NJ, October 31, 2012, after Hurricane Sandy. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

CAN a city prepare adequately? While it’s politically difficult to justify expensive improvements to infrastructure or seemingly-needless restrictions on development in floodplains when conditions are calm, it is true that many cities could and should do more. For an idea about some of the ways to prepare, here’s a checklist for municipal planners, from the EPA (grab it while they’re still allowed to mention the words “climate change”!).

Massive storms, floods, droughts, fires, and other disasters may be touted in the headlines as 100-year, 50-year, or even 1,000-year events. But seriously: How many years in a row can we have “100-year” events before it begins to dawn on even the slowest among us that things are changing?

It turns out that it actually is possible to plan, build, and prepare for even rather extreme disasters, but it takes forethought. It takes community acceptance that it’s necessary.

It takes keeping our weather satellites in place. It takes governing officials who acknowledge the realities of our situation, and can’t be subverted by special interests who’d rather take a short-sighted opportunity to make a buck, or by those who think all regulations are bad.

To any who, like Grover Norquist, want to make government small enough to drown it in a bathtub, I’d like to remind you that it’s harder to make the case for that, when your bathtub’s been washed away in the latest “100-year” flood. Of course, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is on this year’s budget-cutting list. So maybe you should just kiss that bathtub goodbye.

IMAGES: I first found the YouTube video of interspersed “before” and “flooded” views of the Buffalo Bayou in Houston on BoingBoing (the article compiles several more before-and-after images that are quite startling). According to streetreporter, who posted it on YouTube, “The still images are from unknown people shared by a French twitter user. I only made the dissolve to show perspective, which is transformative.”

Many thanks to Wikimedia, for the 2005 photo of the Hurricane Katrina flooding at the I-10/I-610 interchange in northwest New Orleans and Metairie, LA, an AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Niemi. Equal thanks go to Slate and Mario Tama of Getty Images for the photo from Hurricane Sandy.

I also thank Abode Home Group’s “Restoration” page for the Fire/Flood/Storm composite image.