Green Brexit conference - 'Is a Zero Carbon Future Possible?' I make the case for pricing all carbon equally.

In March 2018 I was a panellist at a Green Brexit conference - our theme was 'Is a Zero Carbon Future Possible?  The video is below. I come in at 8:34 and 24:56 and 39:05 but the whole session is interesting. The point of this conference was to explore how Brexit could be a positive green step away from the distortions, waste and environmental degradation that the Common Agriculture Policy has brought it its wake. The conclusion was the there needs to be an overarching commitment to the environment that legally binds all future UK governments of whatever political colour. My message was that the one thing that makes a lot of wishes come true is to reward people who take carbon out of the atmosphere. The atmosphere heated up at 39:05 when Michael Liebreich called me out for seeking a universal and equal price for all carbon - he called it 'utopianism' and naive. Maybe he's right, in which case we are all going to die.

 

 

 

Time to break the prescription drug addiction cycle

Craig Sams offers an alternative perspective on the culture of prescription drug addiction, saying a natural solution could be more effective in treating depression

A conversation took place three years ago between a good friend of mine and her doctor. Her husband had left her and she was extremely depressed. She went to see her doctor.

The doctor gave her a prescription for a very addictive 30mg pill that she would have to take every day for the rest of her life. She would sometimes be more prone to suicidal thoughts and less inhibited about acting on them. If she ever tried to stop taking them because she couldn’t stand the side effects, the doctor would not be able or willing to help. She eventually went cold turkey and now experiences periodic electric shocks in her head; which other people who have given up call ‘the zapps.’ Some people reduce the level of addiction by gradually reducing the dose level from 30mg to 26mg to 24mg to 22mg, right down to 6mg or 4mg, at which point it is much easier to get off. But no drug company provides that means of escape. If you go on the internet, there are some people in Holland who will provide you with reduced dose pills that make it a lot easier and safer to give up, but neither the NHS nor any drug company or doctor will help you with that.

What the doctor could have said: “Go out to a field and select half a dozen psilocybe cubensis mushrooms and eat them. Sit down in a comfortable spot and let them take effect and enjoy the journey. If that doesn’t do the trick completely, repeat after five weeks and you should be fine.”

Of people who take psilocybe just once, 94% experience a dramatic remission of anxiety and depression. The New Scientist recently called on the government to allow mental health researchers to study psilocybin. They do now, but the subjects have to buy it on the black market which invalidates the clinical results. If everybody who was depressed just took a few mushrooms the drug companies would be out of business.

Patrick Holford, the nutritionist, therapist and columnist in NPN, has just released a compelling rap called ‘Big Pharma Man: it’s a grand scam – he don’t give a damn’. It describes the criminality, fines, fraudulent research and cover-ups that have led to millions of lives being ruined by drugs that don’t work and are addictive. Just Google ‘Drug rap Patrick Holford’ and enjoy.

President Trump didn’t get any money from Big Pharma to get elected and so he has dared to say he’ll take action to deal with America’s opioid epidemic, where four out of five heroin addicts started on prescription opiods; drugs that are more addictive, expensive and dangerous than heroin. Meanwhile, Americans will continue to die at a rate of more than 1,000 a week from opioid overdoses. The makers of the drugs keep a database of doctors. Special attention goes to the ones who run ‘pill mills’, dispensing drugs at huge profit for themselves. These are doctors who swore the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm. Hah! When Purdue, manufacturers of the opiod medication, ended up in court it paid $600 million in fines, and the executives who were found guilty of the criminal charge of selling OxyContin ‘with the intent to defraud or mislead’ paid $35 million. If someone sold $50 worth of heroin they would go to jail for a few years. These pharma guys get off light; the fines are insignificant compared to the billions of dollars they continue to make.

In my view it’s time to legalize all drugs, make them all available on the NHS, then let informed people choose how they want to get well instead of spending lives of misery hooked on drugs that have terrible side effects, which are treated with more drugs that also have terrible side effects. The alternatives are safer and cheaper.

Is it any wonder that I haven’t been to a doctor since 1965? I just say no to prescription drugs.

Harmony in food and farming

The groundbreaking Harmony in Food and Farming Conference explained why a sustainable food culture sits naturally at the heart of an inspiring philosophy for harmonious living, says Craig Sams

In 2010 a book called ‘Harmony – A New Way of Looking at Our World’ was published. Written by HRH The Prince of Wales along with Tony Juniper and Ian Skelly, the book set out a coherent philosophy of harmonious living for communities and society, along with inspiring examples and a roadmap to a better future. It was inspired by the philosophy of the Stoics of Greece, while acknowledging Taoism, Zen and the Vedic texts. The book aims to re-engage the thinking that sought harmony with the order of the cosmos and a reconnection with Nature. It covered subjects like architecture, urban design, natural capital, deforestation and farming.

Inspired by the book, Patrick Holden, former director of the Soil Association and founder and Director of the Sustainable Food Trust, organised a conference in Llandovery Wales on July 10-11. The aim of the conference, entitled ‘Harmony in Food and Farming‘ was to put meat on the bones of the Prince’s book and to map out a way forward for agriculture and food production that resonated with the principles of harmony.

The conference kicked off with an inspirational keynote speech and then looked at a range of subjects, with key speakers from all around the world. Rupert Sheldrake led a session on ‘Science and Spirituality,’ Prof Harty Vogtmann moderated a session on ‘Farming in Harmony with Nature.’

A session on ‘The Farm as an Ecosystem’ saw Helen Browning, director of the Soil Association, describing her new agroforestry project that encourages happy chickens to range free in a productive orchard of apple trees.

A session entitled ‘Sacred Soil, Sacred Food, Sacred Silence’ highlighted the extent to which faith communities put harmony first in developing their food production systems.

A session on ‘Agriculture’s Role in Rebalancing the Carbon Cycle’ was my opportunity to shine with a presentation entitled ‘Capitalism Must Price Carbon – or Die’ in which I showed that if carbon emissions were priced into farming organic food would be cheaper than industrial food and we’d get the extra benefits of biodiversity, cleaner water and regenerating soils – all themes familiar to readers of my column in NPN. Then Richard Young set out the case for livestock farming that could operate harmoniously within our climate constraints and Peter Segger described his carbon-sequestering vegetable growing operation, which was a fascinating field trip that afternoon.

A session on animal welfare sought to see a way forward to keep animals happy during their short lives and to make that final moment of betrayal as pleasant as possible, with reference to examples and a deepening of the understanding of the sacred relationship between the animals we rear with care and then kill.

Patrick Holden learned his farming at Emerson College and is empathetic to biodynamic principles. A session on Harmony and Biodynamic Agriculture showed how the ideas of Rudolf Steiner resonate with the Harmony philosophy. At a reception the evening before the conference I mentioned to HRH that our original Zen Macrobiotic company was called Yin Yang Ltd and that our brand was Harmony Foods and that we had taken our philosophical guidance from Zen Buddhism and Taoism, unaware that the Stoic philosophy or Greece was on the same page. He commented that the Egyptians had laid the philosophical foundations for the Stoics. I wondered at how a way of thinking that had arisen simultaneously in China, India, Greece and Egypt was now guiding the effort to restore balance to our dysfunctional and unsustainable world.

The conference was attended by delegates from every continent and the closing plenary session included individual delegates describing how the conference had affected them. It was very moving stuff and helped us realise how much we all had been changed by two days in Wales. Patrick stood up to finalise the session and received a prolonged and much-deserved standing applause. The conference was a remarkable achievement. It is now the job of the Sustainable Food Trust to build on its relationships with the organisations that were represented at the conference, capture the momentum of the gathering and give impetus to the movement for harmony, regeneration and an end to the war on Nature that has brought us so dangerously close to disaster.

The proceedings of the conference, filmed and edited, can be seen on the Sustainable Food Trust website.

Capitalism Must Price Carbon - Or Die

This was a speech I gave at the Harmony in Food and Farming conference in Llandovery, Wales in July 2017.

Please click here to see video clips of the Prince of Wales, Patrick Holden and myself during the conference, which was organized by The Sustainable Food Trust. It aimed to develop an agricultural perspective on the ideas propounded in the book 'Harmony' by HRH The Prince of Wales and Tony Juniper.

In 1967 Joni Mitchell wrote a song called Woodstock that included these lines:

“We are stardust, We are golden

We are billion year old carbon

And we got to get ourselves

back to the garden”

We are indeed ‘billion year old carbon’ – the average person of about 80kgs/176lbs  contains about 15kgs/33lbs of carbon.  That ancient carbon is in our bones, our muscle, our fat and our bloodstream, as carbohydrate, fat, protein and other compounds.  The carbon in our bodies may have been previously in soil, in trees, in charcoal, in dinosaur turds, in mosquitoes, in honey...  It was everywhere before it ‘reincarbonated’ in us.  Carbon is immortal.   And it is stardust.

A billion or so years ago a very hot star kept getting hotter.  As it got hotter, it formed hydrogen, then carbon, then oxygen and then the other elements that we know.Sir Fred Hoyle, the great astrophysicist, described this as ‘stellar nucleogenesis’ – stars creating atoms.

When that star got too hot it exploded, became a ‘supernova’ and blasted its carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and rock into space.  Those chunks of rock and elements consolidated to form our solar system, with a sun that is still burning today with the remaining heat of the star that formed it a billion years ago.

Carbon is a promiscuous atom, it has 4 points where it can ‘mate’ with other elements.  That’s why there are so many carbon-based molecules and why carbon is the foundation of all living things.  Where there’s life, there’s carbon.

 According to Hoyle, life, in primitive form, was everywhere. This was called ‘Panspermia.’

Life in rock was called ‘Lithopanspermia.’

Life was fungi. That life bumbled along, depending on acid rain from the very CO2-rich atmosphere a billion years ago to break down carbon that was stored in rock. Then a miracle happened that changed everything.

Bacteria called cyanobacteria became able to combine carbon dioxide CO2 from the atmosphere with H2O water, using sunlight energy, to make carbohydrate C6H12O6, whilst excreting oxygen.  That carbohydrate was the sugar that is the basis of all living energy in plants and, eventually, in animal life too.

Once this happened, one can speculate that the rock-eating fungi saw their chance and organised the cyanobacteria into chain gangs, maximising their potential to capture carbon from the carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, then at about 95% CO2.

These became algae, then simple plants, all busy making sugar to feed their own growth and, more importantly, to nourish the growth of the fungi that created them.

The fungi worked with other microbes in the soil, thriving on the sugar coming from the plants and delivering back to 'their' sugar-making plant all the mineral nutrients that they needed to grow.  Plants died and decomposed.  Fungi and bacteria died and decomposed. The carbon-rich detritus of their existence rotted down to become what we know as ‘soil’ – a most precious resource because it is the perfect habitat for fungi and bacteria and a rich source of recycled nutrients for plants.

This soil built up over millions of years, producing rich plant growth that eventually could support the large life forms such as dinosaurs and brontosaurs that existed in the ‘Carboniferous’ age.

This was the soil that early pioneers found in the American Midwest, rich in organic matter that ran very deep thanks to the 3 metre roots of prairie grasses.

When my great grandfather began to plough virgin prairie in Nebraska back in 1885, the soil on our farm contained over 100 tonnes of carbon as organic matter (organic matter in soil is approximately 50% carbon).  By the time I was born in 1944 this was down to about 20 and now it is closer to 10, totally dependent on fertilizer and pesticides.

Farmers are frugal, on our farm we grew and processed almost all the food that we ate, only buying in commodities like flour, salt, sugar and soap that we couldn't make on the farm.  Old calico flour sacks were washed and recycled as clothing, overalls for the boys and dresses for the girls.

Some enterprising flour companies printed pretty patterns on their flour bags when they realised this was happening.  My mother and her sister Thelma wore Nell Rose flour sack dresses.

The men were frugal too, but they were unwittingly wasting the most precious resource on the farm, the soil.  As the poet Wendell Berry put it:

 "We didn't know what we were doing because we didn't know what we were undoing." 

What we were undoing was all the decomposed plant matter that had been accumulating ever since those first Cyanobacteria sped up the process of life on Earth.

The destroyed soil lost its water holding capacity and lost its structure and integrity.  The result was the great Mississippi floods of 1927 when the river was 60 miles wide from April to October, sparking the Great Migration of African-Americans to northern cities as their farms were submerged for half a year.

Then in the 1930s the Dust Bowl triggered another migration, of "Okies" from their farms in Oklahoma, Kansas and western Nebraska as their farms became submerged in dust and dirt.  Richard St. Barbe Baker, an Englishman who founded Men of The Trees in 1926 and was a founder member or the Soil Association, helped restore the broken soils of the Midwest.  Operating under the banner of President Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps he oversaw 3 million men who planted 10 billion trees between 1933 and 1940.  (These men also made good soldiers in WW2).

Tractors also played a destructive role, they could plough twice as deep as a horse-drawn plough, bringing up fertility and carbon from deeper in the soil.  My Uncle Floyd (pictured with me in 1947) still used horses to draw his 8-row planter because horses didn't compact the soil. Tractors did, weakening soil structure.

This experience alarmed people in Europe.  In Britain Eve Balfour wrote "The Living Soil" which proposed a new approach to agriculture that worked with nature and became known as 'organic farming.'

Eve Balfour collaborated with Dr. Innes Pearce who had shown at the Pioneer Project in Peckham that low income families did much better if they understood the basics of good nutrition and domestic hygiene.

Together they formed the Soil Association in 1947 on the premise that good farming would produce heathy food to nourish healthy people and create healthy societies.

My introduction to organic food and healthy eating came via the Japanese guru Georges Ohsawa, author of Zen Macrobiotics.  I imported the books to the UK and sold them via various bookshops.

I sold brown rice snacks at the UFO Club, where the Pink Floyd were the house band.  In February 1966 I opened a restaurant in Notting Hill to spread the macrobiotic message.  In 1968 my brother Gregory opened Seed restaurant, our larger restaurant in Bayswater, London.

Getting ourselves back to the garden

ZEN MACROBIOTICS - Taoism

  • Balanced - Yin and Yang
  • Organic - Sustainable
  • Wholegrain
  • Food for health
  • 'Justice' (Fair)
  • Japanese (Miso, Nori, Tamari)
  • No additives, no hormones
  • Avoid sugar
  • Eat only when hungry
  • Exercise and Activity

Like the Stoics mentioned in the Prince of Wales’ book "Harmony" we believed in "an attunement between human nature and the greater scheme of the Cosmos."  We saw this through the prism of Daoist yin and yang philosophy and saw it as the key to a long and happy life ('macro' = 'big, long', 'bios' = 'life').

When we launched a range of macrobiotic food products in 1970 we branded them "Harmony" with a trademark that was a Yin Yang symbol with leaves and roots.

The company went on to become Whole Earth Foods a decade later - unfortunately 'Harmony' was a brand we couldn't register in our key European markets.

When I launched Whole Earth cornflakes in 1997 a friend Dan Morrell, who had founded Future Forests (later to become the Carbon Neutral Company) asked me if I'd like to take the corn flakes 'carbon neutral' -  a term he originally coined. .  He then commissioned  Richard Tipper of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management to measure the carbon footprint of the cornflakes.

To our pleasant surprise we had to plant hardly any trees to offset the carbon used in growing, shipping, processing, packaging and distributing the cereal because the increase in the organic matter on the farms where the corn was grown almost completely offset the carbon emissions from everything else.  That's when I understood that, if we priced carbon into the cost of food, people would farm in a very different way.  It is now urgent that we do so

The UN has said that we only have 60 years of farming left. Farming generates more than a third of the annual increase in greenhouse gas. 

Volkert Engelsmann of IFOAM has calculated that we are losing farmland at the rate of 30 football fields every minute.  None of these losses come from organic farming, which is restorative and regenerative.

Industrial farming wastes energy.  It takes 12 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food energy.  A farmer with a hoe uses 1 calorie of human energy to produce 20 calories of food energy.  On a calorie-for-calorie basis a farmer with a hoe is 240 times more carbon efficient than a farmer with lots of equipment and inputs.  More than 30 years of trials at the Rodale Institute farms in Pennsylvania show that organic farming can sequester 1 tonne of carbon per annum.  They have also shown that once the soil is in good shape, the yields match those of industrial farming.

There is an effort afoot to attempt to bring market forces into bringing an end to this potentially disastrous loss of viable farmland.  Part of this is to attempt to appeal to the self-interest of companies like Unilever and General Mills whose supply chain will suffer if farmland becomes unviable and unavailable.

The French National Institute for Agricultural Research published a report in 2015 that stated that if farmers could sequester 4 parts per 1000 of organic matter,  that’s 0.04%, every year in their soil that would be enough to totally offset the annual increase in greenhouse gas emissions that is causing climate change.  That’s without counting any transition to solar, wind or greater energy efficiency.  As a result the French National Assembly voted a carbon price of €65 per tonne to take effect in 2020 and to include agriculture.  French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll then announced his ‘4 per 1000’ initiative which became part of the Paris Climate Agreement. It was endorsed at COP 22 in Marrakech and  36 countries so far have signed up to participate in restoring soil, the capital base of every nation.

The Prince of Wales co-authored a children’s book called ‘Climate Change’ that shows how carbon goes into the atmosphere and how it comes back into the earth and the sea.  The net annual increase is 16 billion tonnes.

A 3000 hectare biodynamic farm called Fattoria La Vialla in Tuscany Italy has its carbon measured every year by a team from the University of Siena.  La VIalla are sequestering ‘7 per 1000’ every year.  If everyone farmed like those 3 brilliant brothers  in Italy, whose farm is roughly 1/3 pasture, 1/3 forest and 1/3 everything else (grape vines, cereals, fruit, vegetables), then we would not only cancel out the 16 billion tonne increase in CO2 but would see a 12 billion tonne reduction every year.   Additional benefits would be greater biodiversity, cleaner water, less risk of drought and flooding and safer food.  (Their wine is pretty awesome, too).

Going beyond stopping degeneration is the regeneration movement.  This includes: Regeneration International, an offshoot of the mighty Organic Consumers Association in the US; the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO; Soil and More (Netherlands); People 4 Soils (Slow Food movement); and Save our Soils (UK).

Corporations like General Mills are taking strong initiatives.  They have 100,000 hectares of land from their supply chain to be organic by 2020 as part of their carbon reduction policy.

But we still burn food.  One half of the annual USA corn crop is converted to ethanol using more energy to produce it than is embodied in the ethanol. It is mixed with gasoline to be burned as fuel.  The US is now exporting oil and gas yet still burns vast amounts of food in the name of 'energy security.'

We still destroy forests.  According to HRH the Prince of Wales this is at a rate of 15 football fields per minute.  If we valued the carbon stored in those forests at $20 tonne each hectare would be worth $15000.  Once the forest is cleared and then planted with soybeans it is worth $300 per hectare.  HRH described this in a speech in 2008 as ‘The greatest example of market failure in the history of capitalism.’

We still burn wood.  There is a false virtuousness to burning wood.  200,000 wood burning stoves a year are sold in the UK alone.  Wood smoke is more harmful to health than smoke from coal, oil or gas.  It takes a tree 50 years to sequester the carbon that is then consumed in a wood burning stove in 50 minutes. If a replacement tree is planted, will take 50 years to take that carbon back out of the atmosphere.

Wood has the resilience of steel and the load bearing capacity of concrete.  'Glulam' and other new wood technologies mean that wood can be used in 20 story buildings ('plyscrapers'), sequestering the embodied carbon in the wood for centuries.  We should never burn wood, it's a terribly inefficient waste of carbon.

Biochar, or charcoal made from wood, is a way to convert wood by-products into a carbon rich substance that can be put in the soil and will stay there for decades or even centuries.

It dramatically increases the population of beneficial microbes in soil, delivering a healthier plant immune system,  increased water retention and reduced loss of nutrients from leaching.  It is the best use for woody material that is not suitable for building or furniture making.  It is proven to help restore degraded soils and make them fertile and fit for farming again.  There are many examples of its benefits: tomato growers use it to combat plant diseases and increase yields; it cures honey fungus, ash dieback, chestnut blight, phytophthora and other tree diseases; it helps cocoa farmers overcome the devastating impact of black pod.  Stockholm uses it for all their new urban tree plantings as it enhances survival rates.  In Qatar the Aspire Park now use it for all their new tree plantings, with gratifying results.  Biochar in soil protects the beneficial microbes that are part of a plant’s immune system, its food supply and it’s water supply.

Farming and forestry would be transformed if carbon pricing were to be introduced for their activity.   People would plant trees instead of growing wasteful biofuels.  Prairie grass would replace corn in the Midwest.  Farmers would adopt regenerative methods such as organic and biodynamic farming.

Farmers would profit from farming carbon in 2 ways:

  1.  An annual payment for any increase in soil carbon and a charge for any decrease in soil carbon
  2.  An 'interest' payment on the actual level of soil carbon on the farm. This would be effective at around 10% annually.

A typical organic farm would benefit to the tune of approximately £100 per hectare and an industrial farm would have to pay a carbon tax of as much as £100 per hectare.  Farmers would change behaviour overnight and agribusiness behemoths like Monsanto, Bayer and John Deere would have to rethink their business model.  Taxpayer-funded subsidies to farming could be largely phased out as carbon markets would trade the carbon credits.

Farmers could also insure against catastrophic events such as flood and drought that might impact on their soil carbon.   However, farming with carbon in mind would reduce the likelihood of such damaging events.

Soil is Nature’s capital and the foundation of all life on Earth.  Capitalism is about valuing capital and pricing it.  Capitalism has failed to deal with carbon because industry, transportation and farming have been allowed to pollute freely at no cost.  All other forms of pollution are nowadays strictly controlled for wider social benefit. It is time for carbon to be priced and traded like very other important commodity.

We can get 'back to the garden' - the Garden of Eden.  We just have to price carbon and change the way we farm our beautiful planet.

"We are stardust, We are golden

We are billion year old carbon

And we got to get ourselves

back to the garden"

V&A Keynote Speech

The V&A 'Revolution - Records and Rebels 1966-1970) exhibition closed earlier in 2017.  I was invited to give the keynote speech at the launch dinner at the museum.  It was well received.  Here's the text:

While staying in a Sikh temple in Delhi in April 1965 a couple of guys from San Francisco gifted me with a 1000 microgram capsule of Sandoz pharmaceutical grade LSD.  I took my first trip in September of 1965, 51 years ago almost to the day.  Then I went back to complete my final year at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.   In October Timothy Leary came to Philadelphia with his message to explore higher consciousness.  This created a psychedelic community, as happened wherever Leary went.

Like many who became health conscious on acid, I adopted the macrobiotic diet and later visited the Paradox macrobiotic restaurant in New York’s Lower East Side. On the spot I decided to cancel my career path of Peace Corps - Navy pilot - State Department and decided instead to open a macrobiotic restaurant in London. I imported books about macrobiotics that were sold at the Indica bookshop.  I supplied brown rice snacks every week for the UFO Club from when it opened in December of 1966. My little band of macrobiotic missionaries would talk to people who were eating it, explaining, between Pink Floyd sets, how sugar was bad for you and whole grains were good for you. The American Medical Association described the diet as ‘leading to death.’  My restaurant opened in February 1967 and one of my first customers was Yoko Ono, who knew macrobiotics from Japan.

People got religion – not the old guy in the sky variety, but the personal spiritual discovery embodied in yoga and meditation and Zen Buddhism.

Our clothes helped us identify each other.  I imported coats I’d seen in Afghanistan a year earlier.  The Beatles bought some at Granny Takes a Trip boutique on the Kings Road and set off a global craze.  I also imported Tunisian kaftans, Tibetan shoulder bags and Chinese silks that Aedan Kelly would dye with blobby designs that were then tailored into shirts and dresses.

Clothes also helped the police to identify us and they started randomly searching and arresting people who looked colourful or had long hair.  We understood what it was like to be black and this fuelled empathy for civil rights as well as for drug law reform.

We believed in the power of peace and love.  The Vietnam war was at its peak – we tried to stop it and faced up to the full force of the law in Grosvenor Square, Chicago and Kent State.

We experienced nature and the environment on an intuitive and empathetic level, seeking out green places like Golden Gate Park or Kensington Gardens.  We read the romantic poetry of Keats and Blake, deploring dark satanic mills.

When the Move sang “I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ or The Small Faces sang ‘It’s All Too Beautiful’  we responded viscerally.   Then the Beatles summed it all up as “All you Need is Love.”

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth both were born out of this awareness of our oneness with our beautiful planet.

We got sexy.  It was hard to repress sexuality when all your other senses were heightened, so if you were gay you let yourself go, if you were polyamorous you started to swing. Sexual experimentation led to sexual liberation.

We were a community – with a strong sense of communalism.  Not communism, quit the opposite: we didn’t trust the State but we did form communes. Our individualism, communalism and libertinism combined to forge a political libertarianism.

It wasn’t easy to get a job if you dressed like a hippie and had long hair, so many set up their own businesses. Fashion, publishing, natural foods and music were areas where entrepreneurial spirits could follow their heart and make a good living.

Our goal was to create an alternative society, an exemplar of how life could be and should be.

We underestimated the degree to which the legacy industries that profit from war, environmental degradation, ill health and financial manipulation would still control the agenda 50 years later.

This exhibition captures magnificently the deep spiritual, philosophical and political intent of those times and their impact on the world today.

It could help to accelerate the change of which we dreamed.

Perhaps it will help us to build Blake’s hippie vision of a new Jerusalem in this green and pleasant land.

My Sugar Odyssey

Now that the Government is slapping a tax on soft drinks I am going to indulge in a reminiscence of my troubled relationship with sugar, health and food. My first job, as a 7 year old kid, was to scour the streets of a Pittsburgh suburb called Bridgeville, collecting discarded soda bottles and taking them to my aunt Gloria's store to collect the 2¢ deposit refund.  At that time a soft drink was 10¢, so the drink was 8¢ and the bottle deposit was 2¢ and people still threw the bottle away.  The deposit didn't make much change in behaviour.  When people wanted sugar, they paid what it cost.

I didn't really have much appetite for sugar for most of my childhood, our mother was pretty strict about it.  I remember the day in 1953 when confectionery came off the ration in the UK  and some schoolmates emerged from a sweet shop with a bag of humbugs they'd just bought  without having to cajole their mother to come along with her ration book.  The nation went mad for sugar and the Government had to put it back on rationing until supplies recovered.

It was in 1965, when I was in Afghanistan, recovering in Kabul from a serious case of hepatitis, enhanced with dysentery, that I understood sugar.   My liver was on strike and the doctors told me that I should eat lots of simple sugary food to keep my blood sugar levels up.   The dysentery told me otherwise: I knew from an early bout in Shiraz, that a diet of unleavened whole meal flat bread and unsweetened tea was the key to stopping the runs.   So I tried it again and the dysentery cleared up in 2 days.   Amazingly, so did the hepatitis.  My liver stopped throbbing with pain and the whites of my eyeballs went from greenish yellow to something close to white.

That autumn, back in Philadelphia, I adopted the macrobiotic diet which forbids sugar.  My health rose to an even higher level and I haven't once needed to see a doctor since about my health.  After a few years I was able to reintroduce alcohol into my diet but tried to keep a lid on sugar.

In 1966 I was in London, aiming to open a macrobiotic restaurant and study centre. From December, I was a regular at the UFO Club, where proto-hippies would listen to the Pink Floyd and then buy macrobiotic food that my mother had helped me make.  My little band of macrobiotic missionaries would then explain to people trying this strange food that brown rice was good for you and sugar should be avoided.  I opened a little basement restaurant in Notting Hill in February 1967.  Yoko Ono was one of our first customers, as she knew about macrobiotics from Japan.

We made bread without yeast, macrobiotic-style and I imported books like Zen Macrobiotics by Georges Ohsawa (Nyoiti Sakurozawa) that were sold in Indica Books, the bookshop owned by Paul McCartney and Barry Miles.

Macrobiotics avoided yeast for the same reason they avoided sugar: too much could cause dysbiosis of the gut flora.  Meanwhile the American Medical Association called macrobiotics a diet that 'could lead to death'

Dr. Arnold Bender, Britain's top nutritionist, said white bread was the most easily digestible and nutritious bread you could eat, slapping down the wholemeal alternative as too slow to digest and with lower nutrients, because wheat bran fibre has no protein and carbohydrate.

In 1968 I had to leave Britain and my brother Gregory opened a larger restaurant in Bayswater called Seed.

None of the desserts were made with sugar - a touch of salt was enough to bring out the sweetness of the apples in the crumbles.  At festivals like Glastonbury and Phun City we would serve up porridge to the festival goers and got into trouble at one festival as our customers would head off to an adjoining catering tent to get sugar to sprinkle on their porridge and muesli.  We had a shop on the Portobello Road called Ceres Grain Shop that sold all the whole grains, beans, seeds and organic vegetables but the only sweet thing we sold was Aspall organic apple juice.

I wrote a book called About Macrobiotics in 1972 that was translated into 6 languages and sold half a million copies where I wrote: "If sugar was discovered yesterday it would be banned immediately and handed over to the Army for weapons research."

We were hard core.  My kids didn't dare even ask for sweets - they might sneak them with friends at school but would destroy the evidence before they got home.

We didn't believe in refined cereals either - no white flour or white rice touched our lips.  Our macrobiotic food wholesaling company Harmony Foods introduced the first organic wholegrain rice.   In 1973, with other pioneering natural food companies we wrote the manifesto of the Natural Foods Union.  We promised each other not to sell sugar or any products containing sugar or white flour or white rice.  We were committed to developing organic food sources which were then rare.  Signatories included Community Foods, our own Harmony Foods and Ceres Grain Shop, Haelan Centre, Infinity Foods, Harvest of Bath, Anjuna of Cambridge and On The Eighth Day in Manchester.

We published a magazine called 'Seed - The Journal of Organic Living' that had cover stories with headlines like "Garbage Grub - How The Poor Starve on Rich Foods" and a story on Britain's future which set out a dystopian vs Utopian vision where on one side people were clamouring for 24 Hour TV and More Sugar.  On the other they were tending goats and living in countryside communes eating whole natural foods.

Then in 1977 I worked out how to make jam using apple juice.  Being higher in fructose it was possible to make a jam with a lot less sweetening, so it tasted light and fruity.  They were 38% sugars from fruit when other jams were 65% sugars from sugar cane and fruit.  Whole Earth jams were an international success as they reached out to the increasing numbers of sugar avoiders in the UK, Europe and North America.

However our sales met stiff competition from much sweeter jams that used fruit juices like grape juice that were higher in glucose than white sugar and they used a lot of it, to match the sweetness of regular jam.  Our moral restraint cost us sales to these much more sugary jams.   However we also used apple juice to sweeten other products, marketing baked beans, soft drinks and salad dressings.  Even our best selling Whole Earth peanut butter contained a touch of concentrated apple juice to make it taste more mainstream.

Then, while searching for another source of organic peanuts I connected with Ewé tribal people in Togo, West Africa, who grew delicious peanuts as part of an organic crop rotation.  Unfortunately the peanuts failed our aflatoxin tests but the farmers also grew organic cocoa beans.  There was no organic chocolate on the market at that time so I got a sample made up of 70% solids chocolate made with organic cocoa beans.

We called it Green & Black's and launched it in September 1991. It was the first time I had sold a product containing real sugar from sugar cane.  It was the first organic and the first 70% and the first chocolate with a transparent supply chain.   So we put a sugar warning on the label – I think this is the only time that any company has done this. It read:  “Please Note:  This chocolate contains 29% brown sugar, processed without chemical refining agents. Ample evidence exists that consumption of sugar can increase the likelihood of tooth decay, obesity and obesity-related health problems.  If you enjoy good chocolate, make sure you keep your sugar intake as low as possible by always choosing Green & Black’s.”

How did I square this with my conscience?  Well, a French author called Michel Montignac had written a best-selling book called 'Dine Out and Lose Weight' that was one of the first places the idea of glycemic index had been in print.  In his book 70% dark chocolate had a ranking of 22 on a scale where sugar was 100.  Brown rice was at 50 and carrots at 70.  Fructose was at a mere 20.

Two of our best Whole Earth foods customers, Community Foods and Planet Organic, flat out refused to stock Green & Black’s because it contained sugar.  Tim Powell at Community said: "Craig, you were the one who got us all to not sell sugar back in the day - we can't stock this."  (they came around eventually)

I mentioned earlier that apple juice was higher in fructose.  The crystals of fructose and glucose, the two monosaccharides that make up a sugar molecule (sucrose), have exactly the same chemical formula: C6H12O6.  So what's the difference between glucose and fructose?

  1. If you beam a light into the glucose molecule it bends slightly to the right. If you beam a light into a fructose molecule it bends slightly to the left.
  2. If you put a given amount on your tongue the fructose will taste more than twice as sweet as the glucose
  3. If you eat the glucose it raises your blood sugar within 20 minutes. If you eat the fructose it has almost no impact on blood sugar.

If you eat a given amount of sugar the glucose half hits your bloodstream, the fructose half passes down your digestion and is eventually turned into glycogen or into fatty acids.  These provide an energy source that is managed by the body rather than just absorbed in the way that glucose is.  So Lucozade, a glucose drink, was marketed on the premise that ALL the sugar - because it was glucose - got through to you immediately and that this would 'speed recovery.'  It was a deluded proposition, but it captured the fact that you got twice as many sugar bangs for your bucks.

If you have apple juice, there is more fructose than glucose or sucrose, so you don't get the same 'hit' as a lot of the sugar takes a different metabolic pathway.  Corn syrup is about 80% glucose.  Because glucose isn't very sweet on the palate, you have to use a lot more of it to get to the same level of perceived sweetness.  This increases the load of glucose to satisfy the taste for sweetness, with a resulting harsh impact on the blood sugar level.    'High fructose corn syrup' has a higher level of fructose, between 45 and 55%, so it is used in industry because it has nearly the same glucose/fructose balance as white sugar.  It's healthier than ordinary corn syrup, as measured by blood glucose impact.

If you really want to get all the glucose right away then it's best to drink it on an empty stomach.  All sugars are not absorbed equally.  If you eat dessert before you eat a meal the sugar will get into your system very quickly.  If you eat dessert after a meal then it has to work its way through the previously ingested food and has a longer exposure time to your digestive bacteria. The higher the fibre content of your meal, the longer it takes for the sugar to be absorbed.   There are some fibres that are particularly good at delaying the impact of sugar.  One of these is psyllium seeds.  Not only do they delay sugar absorption by up to an hour or so, they also bulk up, by absorbing water, your intestinal contents, helping regular passage of food.  Glucomannan also has this property as does oat bran.  Wheat bran doesn't absorb water to the same degree, but it absorbs sugar and delays its release in digestion.  The longer it takes for sugar to be absorbed, the less impact it has on blood glucose level.

There are also foods that help with insulin production and that reduce insulin resistance, thanks to the presence of  chromium.  Chromium-rich foods include black pepper, broccoli, bran, brown rice, lettuce and green beans.  The leaves of the white mulberry are considered particularly effective at delaying sugar absorption,  containing a component called reductase.

There are also co-factors that accelerate the rate at which your body metabolises sugar or that challenge your natural regulatory mechanisms.  These can increase the likelihood of a blood sugar drop, known as hypoglycemia, the symptoms of which are fatigue, depression and a craving for more sugar.

These co-factors include:

Coffee and, to a lesser extent, other caffeine stimulants like tea,  maté, cola, guarana and cocoa.  They will increase the rate at which the brain burns sugar.   Small wonder then that when you purchase a cup of coffee there is always an extensive display of white flour and sugar sweetened products to tempt you.  Your body knows it's going to be short of sugar after you drink the caffeine, so you instinctively go for the antidote to have on hand as you consume the stimulant.

The liver is the main organ, along with the pancreas, that regulates your blood sugar level.  As blood flows through the liver its glucose level is measured and, if it needs topping up, the liver dips into its store of glycogen, converts it to sugar and drip feeds it into the blood.

Alcohol  When you drink alcohol the liver prioritises dealing with what it perceives as a poison and puts dealing with blood sugar on the back burner.   The pancreas also finds it harder to produce insulin and regulate insulin levels when it also has to deal with the presence of alcohol.

Dope is another culprit.  When you smoke marijuana it increases the blood level in the brain by an estimated 40 millilitres.  This increases the amount of sugar available for the brain to burn and this heightened mental activity is part of what is called being 'high.'   However this increased usage of sugar makes it harder for the liver to keep up and the resulting drop in blood sugar is the symptom known to dope smokers as 'the munchies' - an irresistible craving for sweet foods.

Glyphosate or ‘Roundup’  - research has shown that ultra low doses of Roundup consumed over time leads to fatty liver disease.  Fatty liver doesn’t function very well and therefore makes it harder for the blood to maintain the right glucose levels.  Farmers spray Roundup at the end of wheat harvest to kill off the wheat plants.  When the plants realise they are dying, they frantically make as many babies as possible, i.e. wheat grains.  This is reflected in an increased harvest quantity, but ensures that every loaf of non-organic bread or other flour product contains a low dose of Roundup residue.

Antibiotics also can lead to powerful cravings for sugar.   If antibiotics are ingested, they don't just target the disease bacteria they are taken to cure.  They wipe out the beneficial microbes that are our healthy population of gut flora.  That's why it's advisable to consume yogurt or sauerkraut or other foods rich in lactobacilli to replace these important microorganisms.  It's also a good idea to eat foods rich in fibre to help the equally important bifidobacteria which are a pivotal part of the immune system in the large intestine.  A small population of these and other beneficial bacteria are always present in your appendix.  The appendix is the body's equivalent of a survivalist's food store, a place, at the junction of the small and large intestine, where, once the antibiotics are finished, the intestines can be repopulated.  Antibiotics can not kill off the tiny population of yeasts that are a part of the wider bacterial community of the gut.  But once the dominant lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are out of the way, yeasts quickly mutate into a fungal form, candida, a sticky white slime that imbeds itself firmly in the walls of the intestines.

There is an established communication between the gut and the brain and this is a vital part of our food choices, what smells nice, how hungry we feel and also what antibodies the gut flora need to produce to combat pathogens - what we call our immune system.  When candida gets a grip, like a Russian hacker taking over the CIA,  it  takes over the communication channel and sends a message to the brain demanding more sugar.  The more of these foods it gets, the more powerful it becomes and the more successfully it outcompetes the beneficial microbes that are trying to repopulate the gut after the antibiotic A-bomb has exploded.  Getting rid of candida is not easy, but there are ways to do it:

  1. Saccharomyces - these little microbes compete effectively with candida for sugar, thereby holding back the growth of candida and starving them out. They come in capsule form
  2. L-glutamine - this also attacks candida. Also in capsules
  3. Fasting - I often say that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day…to skip.' This is because by the time you wake up in the morning the liver's reserves of glycogen are low and it's time to convert fat into glucose to keep the blood sugar level up.  This keeps sugar away from the gut and the candida, which then die off.  If you eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, perhaps with a glass of fruit juice, the sugars keep the candida topped up and maintaining or expanding their population, perhaps even migrating to other parts of the body such as the vagina or skin.  Starve them out by fasting for 17 hours a day.
  4. Colonic irrigation - pumping water into the large intestine and then pulling it back out removes a lot of candida.
  5. Lactobacillli - probiotics. Eating foods rich in lactic acid and consuming spores of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria helps to create ideal conditions for repopulating your beneficial gut microbes that compete with candida
  6. Inulin - this is a molecule that is made of a long string of fructose molecules strung tightly together. It is indigestible and counts as fibre but when it gets to the large intestine the wonderfully beneficial bifidobacteria feast on it and increase their numbers by the billions.

Good food sources of inulin include whole grain wheat and rye, shallots, onions, leeks, chicory root and the white part of chicory leaves and Jerusalem artichokes.  These are all valuable nutrition for the gut microbes.  Inulin powder, extracted from chicory roots, is a concentrated source.

Candida puts pressure on you to consume the sugar it needs and urges your brain to crave refined flour products, dairy, wine, beer and sugar.  It's not just antibiotics that give candida its supremacy in the gut, it also benefits from hormone replacement therapy, the birth control pill, steroids and hydrogenated fat.

Vinegar also plays a role in sugar metabolism.  Nobody’s quite sure why, but if you take 2 tablespoons of vinegar before a meal the increase in blood glucose later is 34% lower than if you don’t take vinegar.  That’s a big difference as it keeps the level at a level less likely to be stressful.

Lactate

The brain consumes glucose as the energy source that enables neurons to fire.  It's the 'carb' or 'carbon' in 'carbohydrate' that is the energy source.  Oxygen feeds the fire of carbon in the body, which is why we breathe.  So we are like a coal fire, burning carbon to keep ourselves warm and to enable our brains and bodies to function well.  However,  lactate is another rich source of carbon for the brain.  If there is lactate in the blood then the neurons in the brain will preferentially coat themselves in it rather than with glucose.  It's as if lactate is like gas fuel for the brain, glucose more like coal or wood.  Where do we get lactate?

  1. When our digestive system has a healthy population of lactobacilli they will compete with candida and other microbes that are eating starch or sugar and a by-product is lactate
  2. When we walk, run, jump or dance or do any exercise our muscles burn glucose and give off lactate.

At some point in evolution our brains evolved to function best on the super fuel of lactate in preference to glucose.  Glucose for the body, lactate for the brain.

So exercise is really important as it provides a better quality of energy for the brain  - lactate also delays brain ageing and neurodegeneration.  The heart and liver use it, too. Insulin function works much better too if there has been exercise and lactate production.  This is why exercise is increasingly being used as a cure for pre-diabetic conditions and for curing Type 2 diabetes in many cases.

Plato wrote: 'I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency'.  Kellogg's say 'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day."  Who to trust on this?  Everyone has a different metabolism, but they all have the power to change bad habits.

Metabolic Syndrome is the name for the multi-symptom disease that is typical of modern sedentary people.

It's also known as 'Sitting Disease.'  If a person gets up in the morning, sits down for breakfast, then sits in a car or on a train or bus, then sits at a desk or an assembly line and then sits down to return home to sit down to eat a meal and then sits watching television or enjoying social media they lay the foundations for Metabolic Syndrome

Contributing factors are

  1. Inactivity/laziness (Both cause and effect but a natural human condition)
  2. Overeating - large food portions of food low in nutrients
  3. Stress
  4. Pesticides - these have a hormonal effect as well as being mildly toxic
  5. Processed denatured food that is low in fibre
  6. Hydrogenated fat - harms the circulatory system, reducing blood flow
  7. Sugar and refined cereal such as white bread and low fibre breakfast cereals
  8. Television, electronic games and sitting at computers.

So what's the answer?

Our Government has one solution for everything:  Tax it.

A tax on soft drinks will have little impact as the appetite for sugar is not responsive to pricing.  If your candida want sugar or you are on a cycle of high and low blood sugar you don't give a damn what the cost is of a soft drink.  It's the cheapest form of sugar already and a tax won't make a difference.  You get more sugar in a chocolate brownie than in a can of Coke and a brownie costs at least 3 times as much.   The best selling soft drink in Britain is Red Bull.  It costs double the cost of Coke and has just as much sugar.

A tax will help in one way though: The Government currently subsidises sugar beet farming and sugar production to the tune of £250 million per annum.  A sugar tax will raise an estimated £400 million.  So the soft drinks tax will neatly subsidise the taxpayers money that goes to sugar producers.  How smart is that?

There is a far more intelligent alternative.  Researchers studied a group of 46,000 people in a Japanese city who were over 48 years old.  They measured their blood sugar, blood pressure, lung function and other measures of health and then recommended actions to rectify any problems before they became serious diseases.  Not all of them complied, but enough did to make a difference.  They became ill less often and therefore cost the health system less.  The estimated average saving came to £200 per person per year.

In the UK, with 26 million people over the age of 48, that would be a saving to the NHS of  £5.2 billion every year.   Why don't doctors and pharmaceutical companies recommend it?  Why don't wine makers discourage wine drinking?  Why don't car makers urge walking instead of driving?  No business likes to lose its customers, even the caring professions.

In 2011 the Soil Association applied for and won a £17 million National Lottery grant to initiate its Food For Life project.  It was a huge success, with schools coming in at Bronze entry level and working up to Gold, where they offer a significant proportion of school meals that are organic, locally sourced and freshly prepared on the premises.  There are now 2 million school dinners a day served under the Food For Life Programme.  A lot of those schools have stopped serving desserts on some days a week.  These kids perform better and learn something really important: you are what you eat.

Those kids will fare better in life, but we have a couple of generations who got the worst of crap food, hydrogenated fat (recommended by doctors), exposure to lead and pesticides and other environmental toxins. They are the ones who need help.  Diabetes levels are already dropping in the Western world as more people eat more wholesome food and exercise a lot more, but there is still work to be done.  A soft drinks tax is pathetic when you consider what the government could be doing to support healthier lifestyles

Change begins with the individual and it's about education.  If people are junk food junkies they will always find junk food. Trying to reform the food industry, which is responding to demand that arises from a multiplicity of causes, is to fight the wrong battle.  If we change demand then supply will follow.

The new science of epigenetics informs us that acquired characteristics can be inherited.  The unhealthy acquired characteristics of previous generations has been one factor in the increase in autism, birth defects, hereditary diabetes and other diseases, food allergies and other developmental problems.  But we need not despair, this is already being turned around and future generations can look forward to even better food produced in a cleaner environment to make healthier happier people, whose babies will be even healthier and happier.  We know more now about these factors than we ever did before, so we have the power to evolve positively.

IS NUCLEAR DOOMED AT LAST?

The curse of nuclear power and its associated mass extermination weaponry has hung over the heads of several generations since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We were conned by promises of 'electricity too cheap to meter' when the first British nuclear plant was erected at Calder Hall (renamed 'Windscale' then renamed 'Sellafield) but in fact it now costs more than wind or solar. Now Toshiba, who suicidally bought the Westinghouse nuclear business, is consulting bankruptcy lawyers. Electricité de France, 85% owned by the French Government, is in terminal decline, with a share price ten percent of historic highs.  This still leaves the question of who will pay to clean up the toxic mess from places like Fukushima and Chernobyl and, eventually, Hinkley Point. The militarists who promoted nuclear power as a cover to get weapons grade plutonium? The politicians who were wined and dined and voted this madness through? The insurers who backed these projects under government guarantees? The investors who relied on taxpayer money to guarantee the huge investment required? Or the taxpayers of today and tomorrow and centuries to come who will have to protect civilisation from this toxic blight on everyone's future?

The below is from the Financial Times...

The end of nuclear
The end of nuclear

Let bodily fluids and solids (and food) be thy medicine

Craig Sams imagines the health farms of the future where ‘super healthy’ humans are raised.

Until just over a decade ago the missus and I would go to Shrubland Hall Health Clinic up in Suffolk, where we’d enjoy vegetarian food, bracing country walks, massage, pilates and other healthful activities and return refreshed and invigorated. They closed in 2006 and more recently we go to Amchara in Somerset, which offers a vegetable juice fast, yoga, massage and colonics. Amchara are big on probiotics, which you have, with psyllium, with every liquid ‘meal.’ Their therapy is designed to break your bad dietary habits and restore your gut flora. But is this enough? What if your gut flora are too degraded to be restored? What if candida or other ‘bad bugs’ are in control? What if the ‘good bugs’ have been wiped out and can’t re-establish?

The average kid has 17 courses of antibiotics before they reach maturity. Doctors carelessly prescribe them to adults too for minor problems like runny noses or tummyache, problems that could be cured by a day or two of bed rest or fasting. Antibiotics destroy your gut flora. So do steroids, some vaccines, stress, alcohol and low fibre diet. The resulting gut dysbiosis is associated with colitis, IBS, multiple sclerosis,autism,anorexia, depression, OCD, migraines and Parkinson’s disease.

A particular dangerous side effect of taking antibiotics is Clostridium difficile. It’s a disease that was practically unknown until the advent of antibiotics. Now 30,000 Americans a year die from it and about 5000 in the UK. Clostridium takes over your gut flora after the 10,000 different bacteria, fungi and archaea in your gut are wiped out by a dose of antibiotics. Some of the good bugs survive, mainly by hiding in your appendix until the antibiotics are stopped. Then they can try to combat the Clostridium. If they fail the triumphant Clostridium leads to diarrhea, abdominal pain and in about 6% of cases, death. The conventional cure is more and stronger antibiotics. This works in about 25% of the cases but has a 50% relapse rate. There is another cure that has a 90% success rate, though. That’s faecal transplantation, also known as stool transplantation. It works for colitis, IBS, candida and other gut diseases, not just Clostridium. Only one hospital in Britain offers it as it’s a bit complicated. First you have to find a ‘donor.’ This is a person who has a completely healthy gut flora with no traces of infectious diseases such as AIDS or malaria. These aren’t easy to find. What’s more, faecal transplantation is a messier business than popping pills. A typical treatment programme would require 10 days of daily transplantation. But when it is done properly it can prevent a lifetime of misery and pain.

What about other person-to-person transfers from the healthy to the unwell? At the Society for Neuroscience convention in November 2016 researchers reported on trials that show an injection of blood from a young healthy person can reverse Alzheimer’s and senile dementia, improve cognition and strengthen the heart and liver.

“Could the health farms of the future be real farms? Farms where the farmer is raising healthy humans? What a lovely way to make a living if you’re the one being farmed”

Could the health farms of the future be real farms? Farms where the farmer is raising healthy humans? What a lovely way to make a living if you’re the one being farmed. All you have to do is live in a stress-free and happy environment, eat a balanced diet of organic food, avoid antibiotics, alcohol and risky sex and earn your living by providing a ‘donation’ 2 or 3 times a day. Sure beats mining coal or driving a mini cab.

Imagine: “Welcome to Poucura Health Clinic, Mrs. Jones. We have diagnosed your problem and advise that your donor is Marlene, an extremely fit young woman who has a 100% success rate in curing Clostridium difficile in her donatees. You will stay with us for 10 days and have 2 treatments a day. If you are having forgetfulness issues (we note that you are in your mid 60s and missed an earlier appointment) we can also provide you with a memory-enhancing transfusion from Arthur, whose IQ of 155 reflects his mental acuity. Your diet during your stay will include high-fibre foods, probiotics and inulin to help accelerate the repopulation of your gut with immune-boosting flora.”

Exchanging bodily fluids has been a big no-no and the years of AIDS have made everyone even more cautious. But the war against diseases of modern diet is being lost and doctors are running out of weapons. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said “all disease begins in the gut, ” adding “let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” To fast track this we can pay people to be really healthy and then let their bodily fluids and solids be our medicine, along with food. Cures like this only last if they are followed by lifestyle changes. But it’s a lot easier to change your lifestyle when the gut flora that are telling your brain what to eat are the good ones that are always urging healthy choices.

Larry Smart

I first met Larry in 1967, when he was in the dance troupe Exploding Galaxy.

They would perform free-style dance at the weekly hippie gathering, the UFO Club, in between sets by the Pink Floyd.  They helped encourage everyone to ‘freak out’ their dancing style.  The Exploding Galaxy were part of a commune which lived in North London and took their name from a painting by Larry of the same name.  They were immortalised in the book 99 Balls Pond Road by Jill Drower, one of the communards.

Born in 1945, Larry spent much of his childhood in Baghdad, where his father Philip worked with Shell Oil.  His exposure at an early age to Islamic art and architecture and its intricate geometry became a lifelong influence. Later he went to boarding school in England and then to Croydon Art College.

Larry's art owed much to his art school mentor Bridget Riley. He created more structured geometric forms than found in her work, while still generating the vibrational effect that results from staring at Riley's paintings, the 'op art' experience.   Larry's paintings were more symmetrical and colourful while still achieving and even enhancing the same ‘op’ effect.  His circular mandalas were an aid to meditation and awareness heightening, oscillating when you concentrated on them.

 At psychedelic events such as the UFO Club, Summertime in the Wintertime or the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream, Larry's mandalas would be the focus of light shows created by John Bloomfield.  The impact of the mandala was enhanced with pulsing light, increasing the op-art psychedelic effect of looking at his paintings.  His mandalas were bought by Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison and funded his meals tab at the vegetarian Baba bel Poori restaurant in Bayswater.

In 1967 he married Carol Grimes, the blues and jazz singer who later performed with Lol Coxhill and the band Delivery.  Their debut performance was at our macrobiotic restaurant Seed in 1969.  One of Larry's mandalas adorned their album cover.

Larry produced work for Apple Corps and subsequently produced silk screen prints representing John Lennon, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan.

In 1970 George Harrison invited Larry to paint murals at Friar Park, his vast mansion near Henley.  Regrettably these works, completed over a year,  appear to have been lost.  Patti Boyd, his first wife, is unaware what happened to them.  Olivia Harrison cannot remember ever seeing them.

Larry also produced landscapes with towers and minarets rising on high peaks that imagined a fantasy world reminiscent of Arabian Nights.  After his break up with Carol the mood of his fantastical landscapes changed and led to a series of paintings showed crumbling edifices, with cracks in the walls and broken towers.

Larry was commissioned by the owners of country houses to capture the look of their houses in his distinctive magical realist style, populating the grounds with cricket or croquet players in Edwardian or Victorian dress.   The intensity of the acrylic colors he used gave a special vibrancy to these paintings and, indeed, all of Larry's work.

He also spent some time in Granada, painting the gardens of the Alhambra.

In 1968 Larry, myself and Jordan Reynolds spent a week in Marrakech.  It was a bit of a blowout for us all, partying until late and then recuperating by the hotel pool the following day.  Larry was captivated by the beauty of the architecture and art of the city and the high plateau landscape of the region.  He and his new wife Karen subsequently visited Marrakech frequently and Larry began to capture on canvas the fountains, palaces, gardens and mosques of the city.  This was a time when the old riads of Marrakech were being restored and the new owners would commission Larry to capture the intricate tiling and designs of the courtyards and fountains of their villas.   Larry's bible at this time was "Arabesques" - an art book by Jean-Marc Castera that explained in great detail the mechanics (and cheats) of, for example, creating a 128-point star and integrating it into a pattern of interlocking stars.  Larry's understanding of how this art was created by the original tilers and designers was reflected in his canvases, which draw the viewers eye inwards and then back and from right to left and left to right.  He saw this work from the inside out and captured its depth of geometrical and mathematical thinking in a way that an artist without that understanding would find challenging.   In Tangiers he stayed with Philip Arnott, who introduced him to clients in Marrakech and who now deals art from the Lawrence-Arnott galleries in both cities.

In the late 1980s and 1990s Larry worked closely with me on a number of projects.  I would brief him on a new organic food product project such as whole grain corn flakes, blue corn flakes, muesli, baked beans, Blaisdon Red plum jam or hummus tahini and he could create a painting that formed the basis for the label or carton artwork.   He created a landscape of the digestive system that provided the perfect packaging for our All Your Fibre breakfast cereal.

By then Larry had settled into a pattern of spending 3 months in Marrakech, then London, then Marrakech again.  He would complete commissions in his London flat for clients in Marrakech, then deliver them a few months later and obtain new work, which he would complete in Marrakech or take back to London to complete.  His paintings were also sold to visitors to La Mamounia hotel, the pre-eminent and historic establishment in Marrakech where Winston Churchill often stayed and painted.

Larry was a regular visitor to our house in Hastings and painted scenes that captured in detail the shape and symmetry of the Old Town's tiled rooftops, the patterning of the wood on the boats of Hastings fishing fleet and even imposed Arabic- patterned arches over a view across the Old Town from the nearby allotments, where he mischievously slipped in a cannabis plant to a lush display of asparagus, marrows, leeks, lettuces and other garden produce.

In 2004 a work colleague showed me an advertisement in Record Collector magazine for Larry's poster of Jimi Hendrix, selling at £350.  I showed it to Larry and he contacted the vendor who proposed printing a limited edition of the poster, to be signed by the artist.  The posters were marketed in 2005 and are now prized collector’s items.  Larry signed the limited edition but then died a few months later.

The Victoria and Albert Museum hold Larry's Jimi Hendrix silkscreen poster in their permanent collection. They used his 'Kaleidoscope Eyes' (hippie slang for acid-tripping) poster on the publicity material for their wonderful 'Revolution: Records and Rebels 1966-1970) exhibition that runs from September 2016 until February 28 2017).  The revival of interest on the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Summer of Love has increased awareness and appreciation of Larry Smart's work.  Larry captured the essence of the time and his work informs any understanding of the aesthetic that reflected the transformation in social and political thinking that emerged from the experience of the late 1960s and its aftermath.

A Larry Smart limited edition A1 silk screen print, Kaleidoscope Eyes is now available - only 300 printed, please order from here.

Kaleidoscope Eyes
Kaleidoscope Eyes

Mose Allison

Apart from Wagner, of all the music that has embedded itself in my mind and my soul, perhaps none had a deeper grip than that of Mose Allison. Born on a cotton farm in northwest Mississippi in 1927, he was a country boy who experienced and was shaped by the Depression years in the Midwest. Perhaps he resonated with me so much because our farm was a few hundred miles north in Nebraska. Whatever, he got me deep down. Country boy with jazz infusion.

I was 16 when I first heard Mose’s music in 1961, on the school bus on the way to Bushy Park School, the first dedicated American high school in London. On the 45-minute bus ride from our pickup point in Ealing, as I'd be trying to remember a few more lines of a Shakespearean sonnet or finish other homework, Cam and Tom, two fellow students, would be harmonizing on "Young Man" or "Parchman Farm." Cam and Tom both went on to study at Ealing Technical College - I went off to the University of Pennsylvania, but came back to London from Philadelphia every summer vacation. We’d all hang out with the Ealing crowd, including Pete Townshend (the Who) and Michael English, an artist best known for his posters for the UFO Club as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. We'd go to the Flamingo Club in Wardour Street in Soho for the all-nighter sessions where Georgie Fame sang his rocking version of Parchman Farm and other Mose favorites.

Cam's girlfriend Marika also studied at Ealing and they invited me to join them in Formentera, then a sleepy little island south of Ibiza, where we stayed in a pension called the Fonda Pepe. My accommodation was a converted pig sty on the nearby road. We’d hang out on the Mitjorn beach during the day and at La Tortuga, a nearby bar run by an American called Don, in the evening. Don had all the Mose Allison albums up to that time and the bar resonated with his music and various jazz records. Walking back along Formentera’s dusty rocky roads at night I’d be singing ‘Young Man’ or ‘Parchman Farm’ to any hoopoes or mosquitoes that might be listening. Cam left the island and a day later Marika and I began a multi-year relationship. She was a Mose fan too, so our good times together were often accompanied by him on the turntable.

In February 1965 I headed east to India. I had purchased a small battery-powered turntable and carried with me 4 albums: Kirk’s Work, Georgie Fame Live at the Flamingo, an Egyptian dance music album and Mose Allison Sings. Music is the international language and having this music with me in by dad’s old Marine Corps duffel bag (I wore his combat jacket as well) helped to make friends wherever I went. But I was alone a lot, too. Mose kept me company and I learned the songs on that album by heart. One Room Country Shack was the song that was most compelling at that time. It describes being ‘1000 miles from nowhere’ and ‘my only worldly possession is a raggedy old eleven foot cotton sack.’ As I sat alone with my duffel bag in a shelter on the road from Abargoo to Yazd in the lunar landscape of southern Iran I shared the feeling in Mose’s plaintive wail.

In Philly I’d catch Mose at The Showboat whenever he came to town, at least once a year. It was always a bit disconcerting to hear him moaning and grunting when he played. That never ended up, thankfully, on his recordings. Thelonius Monk did the same thing when I saw him at the Five Spot, I guess some pianists need to growl the notes as they play them, maybe using their voice to stay in key.

The lyrics of Young Man are even more appropriate these days: “Nowadays, the old men got all the money, and a young man ain’t nothing in the world these days.” Mose nailed it then and all his later music did it too. ‘Middle Class White Boy’ was his sardonic take on the hippie scene. It kindly captured that moment of change in popular culture.

I saw him many years later at Ronnie Scott’s and we had a chat about the Philly scene. By then the Showboat had closed. Mose lamented the fact that a great club had shut down because the economics of a jazz club no longer worked. Hearing him at Ronnie Scott’s, with a quiet and respectful audience, was quite different to the raucous atmosphere of Philadelphia jazz clubs, where even John Coltrane had to blow extra loud to drown out the chatter.

I suppose my favourite line of all from Mose’s great repertoire of one-liners was ‘Your mind is on vacation but your mouth is working overtime.’ A lesson that I am still trying to learn many decades after I first heard it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCpekvOkwNM&w=560&h=315]

1960s Rebels: Craig Sams, Health Food Pioneer from Victoria & Albert Museum

In conjunction with their exhibition You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970 (10 September 2016 – 26 February 2017), the Victoria and Albert have uploaded a series of videos interviewing 1960s Rebels including myself.

The late 1960s saw progressive ideas emanate from the countercultural underground and revolutionise society. Challenging oppressive, outdated norms and expectations, a small number of individuals brought about far-reaching changes as they sought to attain a better world. Their idealism and actions helped mobilise a movement which continues to inspire modern activists and shape how we live today.

Agribusiness

xorganic-farming-640x426-jpg-pagespeed-ic-thzrqz2irqWhen a business sector sees a rash of mergers and acquisitions, it's for one of two reasons, growth or decay. The organic food industry has seen a lot of acquisitions by companies anxious to get in on the ground floor of the 5% annual growth rate in organic food and regenerative farming. Meanwhile, on the dark side, Monsanto is facing takeover by Bayer, not for any positive reasons, but because they are both looking into the abyss. Merger is one way to survive when the farmers they are competing for are spending less. Farmers aren't stupid - they can do the maths. When they see diminishing returns on their investment in seeds and agrichemicals, they reduce their spending. Normally in a situation like this the agribusiness operators would go to the EU or Washington and just wheedle more subsidies out of the national purse, bleating about food security while encouraging biofuels to prop up soy, rapeseed and corn prices. Who cares if you're destroying the earth's precious farmland at 30 football fields a minute? If you were a big landowner, you'd feel entitled to being paid to do this. That's what us mugs are here for. Now that the EU even subsidises grouse moors you'd think the gates were wide open. But the money is running out. Half the EU budget goes to farmers, much of it British money going via Brussels to France. The US spends $350 billion a year propping up agriculture in the US, channeling money through farmers to agribiz.

Let's take a look at who's eating whom. The potash fertiliser price has halved in the past 3 years, from $450 a tonne to $219. So in Canada, Agrium and Potash, two of the world's biggest potash producers, are merging in a desperate attempt to keep afloat while they wait for a bounce in price that may never happen. Bayer and Monsanto are both facing plunging sales and profits. Monsanto have the seed and Bayer have the pesticides to go with them. But again it's desperation. They hope that innovation will save them, but innovation is not something you find in mega corporations.   GMOs are losing support - US farmers never wanted them but were denied choice after Monsanto bought up all the seed companies and forced GMOs down their throats.

The whole ethanol biofuels scam is blowing up, too. It was never even vaguely 'carbon neutral' - it takes more energy to produce a litre of ethanol than the energy you get by burning it. It's more energy efficient to just mix corn with coal and shovel it into a power station, but that would be too obvious and repulsive.

Chem China has taken over Syngenta. They make the herbicides that Syngenta's GM seed can resist. Nobody in China will eat GMO rice but they'll tolerate pork or chicken fed on GM maize. But the real prize for Chem China is Syngenta's strong presence in US market: they're after Bayer/Monsanto's piece of the diminishing pie. Their US competitors are suddenly bleating about food security.   Two other agrichemical giants, Dow and DuPont, also merged recently. They're all like a bunch of drunks spilling out of the pub after a good night out, trying to keep each other from falling down.

If you're a farmer, what do you do? You used to be able to play off one agrichemical giant against the other, but soon you'll just take what you're given. Or look for an alternative and boy, what an alternative is on the horizon!

When the French '4 per 1000 initiative' succeeds at the Marrakech COP22 climate conference in November every hectare of organic farmland will be set to get over €150 a year in carbon credits. A hectare of chemical-dependent farmland will have to pay for its carbon footprint and that could cost close to €100 per hectare.   It won't happen overnight but the French have fixed a price of €56 per tonne for carbon, to take effect by 2020. The world will probably follow, even the US.   If you were a government that was facing huge annual costs to subsidise farmers with money that flows through their bank accounts to Dow/DuPont, Bayer/Monsanto and Chem China/Syngenta and you could instead just let the carbon markets transfer the money from fossil fuel power stations direct to organic farmers, what would you do? Keep on propping up a dying industry or finally recognise that organic food, when the carbon is priced in, is actually cheaper than the degenerative kind that is destroying our available soil at the rate of 30 football fields per minute? (I can't repeat this often enough)

Governments have been holding back for quite a long time because of the immense political power of the agrichemicals industry and of the landowning fraternity. They passionately hate socialism in all its forms, until it comes to their welfare payments.

It's time for a change. We need to bring freedom to farming. Carbon pricing that encourages regenerative farming instead of degenerative farming is the way forward. Organic is good for you and the climate, too.

Let’s hear it for the Jimi Hendrix (and brown rice rissoles) experience

It’s 1967. The Summer of Love. Jimi Hendrix is blaring from the speakers – and Craig Sams is serving up brown rice rissoles to his sensorily-enhanced patrons

The other day someone posted on my facebook page: You hippies have a lot to answer for. My response was: You’re absolutely right and the answer is ‘you’re welcome’.

The belated recognition of how, in 1967, society moved from dull, grey post-war monotony to the bright, enlightened world we now inhabit is becoming a bit overwhelming. When everyone from Atom Retro fashions to the V&A is pumping my memory for details about 1966/1967. I begin to wonder what’s going on … oh, yes, it’s 50 years since All You Need Is Love came out of the speakers of a record shop on the King’s Road and me and my hippie pals all dashed in to buy the single.

Victoria Broackes, curator at the V&A, is putting together a new show called You Say You Want a Revolution. With a series of ‘immersive experiences’ she aims to recreate the heady atmosphere of those times. With your Sennheiser headphones GPS-sensing where you are in the exhibition hall, you’ll get the sound to go with the sights and environment. Imagine being in the UFO Club with Pink Floyd jamming Interstellar Overdrive while patrons munch on my brown rice rissoles and the light show blobs illuminate a Larry Smart mandala painting, and you might get a sense of one of the seven spaces.

The message of the V&A show is that the fundamentals of our culture were irreversibly changed by the revolution in consciousness that happened in the 1967 Summer of Love, mostly in London, San Francisco and Amsterdam, but anywhere LSD was legally available. The way people thought about everything changed. Music reached parts of the brain it had never previously dared to. Exhibit A: Jimi Hendrix. Artists popularized Art Nouveau and Aubrey Beardsley and went all wishy washy – you had to study a gig poster to find out who was playing when and where. People realized that we were delicate human beings that should not be living in a deteriorating environment, and Friends of The Earth, Greenpeace and the Brundtland report all came from that awareness. Fashion broke out of the mould – I imported Afghan coats, kaftans, Tibetan bags and other ethnic fashion and, with Aedan Kelly, produced blobby dyed silks that were used for shirts and dresses. Everybody wanted one of my Afghan coats when The Beatles walked out of Granny Takes a Trip boutique on Kings Road wearing them.

“Everybody wanted one of my Afghan coats when The Beatles walked out of Granny Takes a Trip boutique on Kings Road wearing them”

We realized that war was an ineffective way of resolving differences. The Vietnam War was an entirely stupid and unjustifiable massacre of innocent people on all sides, but it sharpened awareness that peace, love and understanding were the key to a better world. ‘Normal’ sexual barriers dissolved. The pill helped, but repressed gays discovered their inner selves, inhibited women became sexual dynamos and polyamorous relationships were just one example of the resulting experimentation. People who grew up with alienation in soulless suburbs sought community and shared experience.

Religion was rediscovered as a seeking of a spiritual state of consciousness and energy flows that manifested in yoga, meditation and Buddhism, particularly the Zen variety. So we got Zen Macrobiotics, which married a libertarian oriental philosophy with a way of eating that supported the unity of mind, body and spirit.

People saw beyond the hamburger on their plate to the animal, its death, the hormones, antibiotics and whole horrible origin of something they once took for granted. ‘Ugh!’ They thought – ‘I’ll eat something else.’ But what was something else? That’s where we had the answers with Yin Yang Ltd and a macrobiotic restaurant that enabled people to eat in harmony with their consciousness.

Yin Yang became Harmony Foods, the first to offer organic brown rice and foods like miso, seaweed and tamari.
Renamed Whole Earth Foods it focused on healthy processed food, as brown rice and beans became commoditized. Private Eye quoted our price list direct in Pseuds Corner and its readership chuckled at our perceived pretentiousness. To paraphrase Nigel Farage and Ronnie Barker, we can now say “You laughed when we said that diet was the key to mental, spiritual and physical health, but you aren’t laughing now.”

Come and see us having the last laugh at the V&A from 11 September.

How to regenerate organic – privatize it

How can we free organic from its self-imposed bureaucratic box? We could always ask Brussels to privatize us, says Craig Sams

Q. What do Slow Food, LEAF, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Cosmos, Marine Stewardship Council, Red Tractor, Vegan, Vegetarian, Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) and Woodmark all have in common?

A. They all operate trusted authentication symbols that are 100% independent. They can decide what they can certify and how they can certify.

Q. What do the Soil Association, Ecocert, EKO, KRAV, Nature et Progres, OCIA, QAI, OFF, OF&G and 400 or so other organic symbols have in common?

A. They operate trusted authentication symbols that are 100% Government-controlled. They cannot decide what they can certify and how they can certify.

This ‘nationalisation’ of organic certification didn’t happen by accident or by force, we actually asked for it. The independent symbols have grown organically to global respect and stature while the organic ‘brands’ have been stifled in their self-imposed bureaucratic box.

“This ‘nationalisation’ of organic certification didn’t happen by accident or by force, we actually asked for it”

Back in the late 1980s I got to know key players at the Soil Association (up till then we were OF&G licensees). When I heard they were seeking to get the EU to enforce organic standards I was dismayed. Francis Blake of IFOAM and the Soil Association told me that if I wanted to have any influence I should stand for the Soil Association board. I did and didn’t get elected. Boo Hoo. But the Council wanted me anyway and appointed me Treasurer In 1990. I argued from within against letting our precious organic standards go under the control of the agricultural departments which subsidised industrial farming and were 100% behind GMOs. Regrettably the train had already left the station and, short of tying myself to the tracks, there was nothing I could do to stop it.

The infant organic industry was stressed about fraudulent claims and thought calling in big brother would stop that. In fact the opposite happened. When the Soil Association sampled a licensee’s oat flakes a few years ago and found chlormequat residues at quite a high level they told the licensee to take them off the market. Defra and UKAS and the oat processor who supplied them all cried foul. The paperwork was in order, that was all that mattered to the enforcers. The Soil Association came close to being banned from certifying but luckily the horsemeat scandal broke out and the EU said lab sampling of products should be permitted.

Not long ago the most venerable players of the organic world came together, along with the new-kid-on-the-block Regeneration International, to call for “Organic 3.0,” a nice term for evolved organic standards that combine elements of Slow Food, Fairtrade and a less oppressive certification regime for small farmers or farmers who regularly perform well on inspections. It’s a great idea and just the breath of fresh air that the organic movement needs. Meanwhile the EU organic officials are mired in endless delays just to bring about a much-needed update of existing organic standards. The latest review should have been completed long ago and is still years away. The consensus of Organic 3.0 hasn’t helped move things along in Brussels.

Regeneration International and IFOAM are setting their sights on the COP 22 convention in Marrakech in November 2016. This is the follow up to the Paris COP 21 climate talks last November. More than 170 countries have signed up to the Paris agreement, but the detail is still fluffy. Marrakech will focus on how farming and sequestration of carbon in the soil can stop global warming. We are losing 39 football fields of soil every minute thanks to farming – not one of those football fields is organic. The French will be promoting ‘4 per 1000.’ They say if we could increase soil organic matter by 0.04% each year it would offset ALL of our annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Organic farming increases soil organic matter by 0.1% per year, or ’10 per 1000.’ So organic’s the easy route to compliance with the Paris agreement and it regenerates soil for future generations instead of stealing it from them for cheap food today. With composting, crop rotation, fallowing, agroforestry, permaculture, biochar and other organic inputs farming could easily be 100% of the solution to global warming instead of 30% of the problem. But the Governments that control farming are hostages to the agribusiness lobby. If we can’t beat them can we go around them?

All those other independent organisations need the organic movement to join forces with them, indeed lead them. Organic agriculture is at the heart of the drive towards our shared environmental goals. Can we just ask Brussels nicely to privatise us? It works for everything else. Might be worth a go. The existing regulations cover claims like ‘organic,’ ‘biological, ‘økologisk’ or ‘Ecological’, so if privatization was off the menu and we wanted our freedom we’d need to find a new name to break free of Brussels and Washington.

Regeneration International, born out of the Organic Consumers Association, applies organic principles to food, climate, biodiversity, small farmers and health. So, how about ‘Regenerative?’