This interview with Gillen D’Arcy Wood was originally broadcast on June 10, 2015. His book, TAMBORA: THE ERUPTION THAT CHANGED THE WORLD, had just been published by Princeton University Press.
“Out of sight and out of mind, Tambora was the volcanic, stealth bomber of the early 19th century. Be it the retching cholera victim in Calcutta, the starving peasant children of Yunnan, China or County Tyrone, Ireland, the hopeful explorer of a North West Passage through the Arctic Ocean, or the bankrupt land speculator in Baltimore, the world’s residents were oblivious to the volcanic drivings of their fate.”
In 2015, it was 200 years after Tambora erupted cataclysmically with extremely dire global consequences. What can we learn from this event as we face our own challenges in a rapidly changing climate?
Gillen D’Arcy Wood is a professor of English and an environmental historian at the U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he directs The Sustainability Studies Initiative in the Humanities. Gillen D’Arcy Wood has written extensively on the cultural and environmental history of the 19th century, and is the author of The Shock of the Real: Romanticism and Visual Culture, 1760-1860 (Palgrave, 2001), Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain, 1770-1840: Virtue and Virtuosity (Cambridge UP, 2010), an historical novel, Hosack’s Folly (Other Press, 2005).
Indigenous artisans, cooks and farmers tell us this story (in Spanish and in their own languages) about the origins of indigenous corn and how their ancestors have guided the evolution of seeds from the dawn of agriculture to the 21st century; a collective effort that spans more than 350 generations.
To their voices are added those of community leaders, scientists, cooks and many others whose knowledge and activism are committed not only to the defense of food sovereignty and genetic integrity, diversity and the collective property of indigenous seeds, but also for the defense of an enduring cultural legacy and way of life.
Filmmaker and Chair of the FIlm & Digital Media Department at UC Santa Cruz , Gustavo Vazquez, brings us to Oaxaca to experience the wisdom of various indigenous communities, as they explain that “Corn was not domesticated by man – Man was domesticated by corn.”
Professors Ignacio Chapela (UC Berkeley) and Alan Bennett (UC Davis) discuss the merits and dangers of genetically modified organisms, and the characteristics of different landraces of corn that have co-evolved with the people of Oaxaca – continuing co-evolution vs. exploitation for patenting and profit.
Susana Harp, Senator from Oaxaca, works to protect the heritage and health of her region, and to respect the validity of their approach. “Corn & its surrounding rituals are tied to the cosmology of the indigenous people – by extension, the essence of being Mexican, linking our lives to corn.”
The Indigenous Uru-eu-wau-wau people have seen their population dwindle and their culture threatened since coming into contact with non-Native Brazilians in the 1980s. Though promised dominion over their own rain forest territory, they have faced illegal incursions from environmentally destructive logging and mining, and, most recently, land-grabbing invasions spurred on by right-wing politicians like President Jair Bolsonaro. With deforestation escalating as a result, the stakes have become global.
Screen shots from THE TERRITORY of remaining Uru-eu-wau-wau territory surrounded on 3 sides by man made desert.
Filmmaker, Alex Pritz, gained incredible access to the Uru-eu-wau-wau people, and environmentalists dedicated to protecting them and their Amazonian rain forest, as well as Brazilian settlers, filming as the groups come into conflict. From stone age technology to e-technology in only a couple of generations, The Uru-eu-wau-wau understand that the struggle for their survival is also the struggle for humanity’s survival. Protecting the rain forest is crucial to minimizing the catastrophic effects of climate change.
eu-wau-wau people protect their land from invaders & illegal deforestation:
As more and more workers in the United States are organizing to create unions to represent their interests, and corporations are spending millions and millions of dollars to thwart their efforts, it is good to honor this International Workers Day, May Day, by celebrating the restoration and screening of the film, THE WOBBLIES. It was produced during the 1970s and premiered at the NY Film Festival in 1979, and has been recently restored to 4K digital format by the Museum of Modern Art, as well as being inducted into The National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2021, one of only 25 films added each year.
May 1st is celebrated in many countries around the world as a holiday to honor laborers. May 1st was chosen because it marked the day, May 1st, 1886, when a general strike began in the United States to campaign for an 8 hour work day. Four days later in the so-called Haymarket Affair in Chicago police arrived to disperse a packed public assembly in Haymarket Square in support of the general strike, when a person, never identified, threw a bomb. The police fired on the workers. In the ensuing melée seven police officers were killed, as well as at least four citizens. In addition, 60 police were injured as were at least 115 citizens. Hundreds of labor leaders and sympathizers were rounded-up and four were executed by hanging, after a trial that many historians consider a miscarriage of justice. On May 5, 1886 in Milwaukee, WI, the state militia fired on a crowd of strikers, killing seven, including a schoolboy and a man feeding his chickens in his own yard.
We interviewed filmmakers, Deborah Shaffer and Stewart Bird, about their film, THE WOBBLIES, about the period about 20 years after the deadly events during the General Strike of 1886, as a new effort to organize ALL the workers began. They state:
“When we started production on The Wobblies in 1977 our goal was to rescue and record an almost completely neglected chapter of American history as told by its elderly survivors. We never imagined then that the themes of labor exploitation, anti-immigrant legislation, and racial and gender discrimination would resonate as strongly today. We couldn’t be prouder to have the film included last year in the National Film Registry, and to have Kino Lorber present the new 4K MoMA restoration nationwide on International Workers Day.”
About Producer-Director Deborah Shaffer Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Deborah Shaffer began making social issue documentaries as a member of the Newsreel Collective in the ‘70’s. She co-founded Pandora Films, one of the first women’s film companies, which produced several shorts. Her first feature documentary, The Wobblies, premiered at the prestigious New York Film Festival in 1979. During the ’80s Shaffer focused on human rights in Central America and Latin America, directing many films including Witness to War: Dr. Charlie Clements, which won the Academy Award® for Short Documentary in 1985, and Fire from the Mountain and Dance of Hope, which both played at the Sundance Film Festival. Shaffer directed one of the first post-September 11 films, From the Ashes: 10 Artists followed by From the Ashes: Epilogue, which premiered at the Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals. She is also the Executive Producer of the Academy Award®-nominated short Asylum, and has directed numerous acclaimed public television programs on women and the arts. She directed and produced To Be Heard, which won awards at numerous festivals and aired nationwide on PBS. Her most recent film, Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack premiered at DOC NYC and won the Audience Award at the Hamptons Documentary Film Festival. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Irene Diamond Lifetime Achievement Award by the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.
About Producer-Director – Editor Stewart Bird Stewart Bird is a Bronx-born writer and filmmaker. Murder at the Yeshiva is his first novel and he is presently writing his second NYPD homicide detective novel with Detective Mo Shuman. He wrote Solidarity Forever, an oral history of the I.W.W. (University of Minnesota Press) with Dan Georgakas and Deborah Shaffer. He also co-authored the play “The Wobblies: The U.S. vs. Wm. D. Haywood et. al.,” (with Peter Robilotta), which was performed at the Hudson Guild Theatre in New York and published by Smyrna Press. Bird wrote a one-hour story for PBS entitled “The Mighty Pawns” about a black inner-city chess team, which was shown nationally on Wonderworks and distributed nationally by Disney. As a writer/producer for Fox television’s Current Affair, he produced various segments: “Alan Berg,” “Elvis Presley,” “A Cycle of Justice,” and “The Night Natalie Died.” He worked as a writer/producer for CBS News’ 48 Hours and produced segments like “Another America,” “Underground,” “Stuck on Welfare,” and “Earth Wars.” He has produced numerous feature-length documentaries including “Finally Got the News,” about black auto workers in Detroit; “Retratos,” on the Puerto Rican community in New York; “Coming Home,” on Vietnam Veterans; “Building the American Dream: Levittown, NY” and The Wobblies (with Deborah Shaffer) focusing on the Industrial Workers of the World a turn-of-the-century labor union.
Before she died on April 16, 2005, Marla Ruzicka succeeded in documenting civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, and persuading the U.S. Military and the U.S. Congress to assist victims and their families, as well as to create a fund to grant reparations for the harms done. It is believed to be the first time in history that this has been done.
This is an updated rebroadcast of a program originally aired on Easter Sunday, 2006. It was the first anniversary of her death at the age of 28. We spoke with her parents, Cliff and Nancy Ruzicka, and her twin brother, Mark, at their home on the shore of Clearlake, CA.
Equally at home with the military, the media, members of Congress of the people of the many countries she visited and came to know in her short life, she lived her belief that every life matters and deserves dignity, respect and justice.
Henry Giroux is McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest & The Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy.
An internationally renowned writer and cultural critic, Professor Giroux has authored, or co-authored over 65 books, written several hundred scholarly articles, delivered more than 250 public lectures, and been a regular contributor to print, television, and radio news media outlets.
He is on the Board of Directors for Truthout, and he is on the editorial and advisory boards of numerous national and international scholarly journals, and he has served as the editor or co-editor of four scholarly book series. He co-edited a series on education and cultural studies with Paulo Freire for a decade. His books have been translated into many languages and his work has appeared in the New York Times and many other prominent news media
His latest book is PEDAGOGY OF RESISTANCE AGAINST MANUFACTURED IGNORANCE, which will be published on April 21, 2022 by Bloomsbury Academic.
We end this archived edition of Forthright Radio with a song by the Ukrainian group, Beton.
From the Guardian article of March 19, 2022 headlined:
Kyiv calling: famous Clash anthem reborn as call to arms Ukrainian punk band Beton win blessing of the Clash to record new version of song to raise funds for support network “The Clash have given their blessing to a new version of their song London Calling by a Ukrainian punk band called Beton. Kyiv Calling, recorded near the front line, has lyrics that call upon the rest of the world to support the defense of the country from Russian invaders. All proceeds of what is now billed as a “war anthem” will go to the Free Ukraine Resistance Movement (FURM) to help fund a shared communications system that will alert the population to threats and lobby for international support. Its mission is to restore territorial integrity and strengthen Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
With the latest addition to his Hidden History Series, veteran author, journalist, Thom Hartmann, returns to discuss THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF BIG BROTHER IN AMERICA: HOW THE DEATH OF PRIVACY AND THE RISE OF SURVEILLANCE THREATEN US AND OUR DEMOCRACY. It was just published by Barrett-Koehler on international women’s day, March 8, 2022.
He explores how the government and corporate America misuse our personal data and shows how we can reclaim our privacy. Thom Hartmann documents exactly how the government and corporations are tracking our every online move and using our data to buy elections, employ social control, and monetize our lives. Thom Hartmann traces the history of surveillance and social control, looking back to how Big Brother invented whiteness to keep order, and how surveillance began to be employed as a way to modify behavior. As he writes, “The goal of those who violate privacy and use surveillance is almost always social control and behavior modification.”
Along with covering the history, he shows how we got to where we are today, how China — with its new Social Credit System — serves as a warning, and how we can and must avoid a similarly dystopian future. By delving into the constitutional right to privacy, Hartmann reminds us of our civil right and shows how we can restore it.
And particularly now, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, cyberwarfare is a factor, whether control of information or disruption of infrastructure. We spoke with Thom Hartmann on March 9, 2020 via Skype.
We end this edition of Forthright Radio, mindful of the suffering of the Ukrainian people enduring the crimes against humanity at the hands of Russian military forces at the behest of Vladimir Putin. First, Russians unplugged live – with Sting introducing his live performance. This is followed by Ukrainian poet/composer, Valentin Silvestrov’s, Prayer for Ukraine performed by the Kyiv Chamber Choir in 2014 as part of the Maidan Cycle. And finally, a little girl, Amelia, singing “Let It Go” in Ukrainian while sheltering in a crowded basement under Russian Bombardment.
Prayer for Ukraine
Links to articles/videos/films pertinent to this edition of Forthright Radio:
This interview was first broadcast as the sovereign nation of Ukraine was being invaded by the Russian Army. Terrible as this was, it was also an appropriate time to examine our own history, which Jonathan Katz has done in his most recent book, GANGSTERS OF CAPITALISM: Smedley Butler, The Marines, and the Making and Breaking of the American Empire, published in January 2022 by St. Martin’s Press.
He is an award winning journalist, whose earlier book, The Big Truck That Went By, chronicles his time in Haiti, where he was the only full-time American correspondent in Haiti, when the devastating earthquake struck on January 12, 2010 and the ensuing disasters brought on by the multiple failures of international aid projects. More than 230,000 people were killed.
As he describes in our interview, Smedley Butler was there from the very beginning of the United States’ imperialism, first as a 16 year old lieutenant in the Spanish-American War, when we secured Guantanamo Bay, then on to Puerto Rico, The Philippines, China, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
After a long career in the Marines, in which he pioneered counter-insurgency methods and the militarization of police forces to enforce the prerogatives of capitalist oligarchs, who he eventually came to understand were calling the shots, he retired with the rank of General, the most decorated Marine in history, as well as the first of only 19 Marines to have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice.
He became the Head of Public Safety for the City of Philadelphia, where he militarized that city’s police force. He eventually synthesized his experiences and understanding from his years subduing nationalist forces in those many countries – as well as battling gangsters in Prohibition era Philadelphia – to write his book, War Is a Racket, published in 1935.
He wrote, ”War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”
He spent his final years promoting democracy here in the United States and fighting fascism here and abroad, as well as trying to prevent what became World War II. Smedley Butler died of cancer at the age of 59 on June 21, 1940.
This edition of Forthright Radio ends with a tribute to Dr. Paul Farmer, who died on on February 21, 2022 at the age of 62. It is followed by Paul Farmer’s own voice speaking of his work.
John D. Leshy is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. He was Solicitor (General Counsel) of the Interior Department throughout the Clinton Administration. Earlier, he was counsel to the Chair of the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, Associate Solicitor of Interior for Energy and Resources in the Carter Administration, an attorney-advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a litigator in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. He led the Interior Department transition team for Clinton-Gore in 1992 and co-led it for Obama-Biden in 2008.
The U.S. government owns and manages more than six hundred million acres, which is about 30% of the nation’s land. These lands and the agencies that manage them—the National Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management—are a presence in our western communities.
John Leshy’s forthcoming book, OUR COMMON GROUND: A HISTORY OF AMERICA’S PUBLIC LANDS, soon to be published by Yale University Press. In 600+ pages, it chronicles this history of our public lands and suggests how Congress, the executive and the federal courts have responded to the numerous challenges facing these lands.
Kehinde Andrews is Professor of Black Studies in the School of Social Sciences at Birmingham City University. He is the director of the Center for Critical Social Research, founder of the Harambee Organisation of Black Unity, and co-chair of the UK Black Studies Association. In fact, he was the first black studies professor in the UK and led the establishment of the first black studies program in Europe at Birmingham City University.
Among his books are Resisting Racism: Race, Inequality, and the Black Supplementary School Movement and Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century.
His most recent book is THE NEW AGE OF EMPIRE: HOW RACISM & COLONIALISM STILL RULE THE WORLD, published in the US by Bold Type Books.