Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, January 17, 2015

MVNews this week:  Page 14



Mountain Views-News Saturday, January 17, 2015 


Comet Lovejoy, already being tracked by backyard 
astronomers worldwide, is entering its best and 
brightest two weeks for viewing. From about 
January 7 through 24, the comet is predicted to 
be glowing at 4th magnitude�bright enough that 
skywatchers with clear, dark skies might be able to 
just glimpse it by eye, without optical aid. And the 
early-evening sky during this time will be dark and 
moonless, allowing the best views.

 On January 7, Comet Lovejoy passed closest by 
Earth at a distance of 44 million miles, nearly half 
the distance from Earth to the Sun. But its distance 
will change only a little for many nights after that, 
so you�ll have plenty of opportunities to track it 

 �If you can find Orion shining high in the 
southeast after dinnertime,� says Sky & Telescope 
magazine�s senior editor Kelly Beatty, �you�ll be 
looking in the right direction to track down Comet 
Lovejoy.� From there, use Griffith Observatory�s 
sky map to find the right spot for each date:

To the unaided eye, Comet Lovejoy might be 
dimly visible as a tiny circular smudge under 
dark-sky conditions. Through binoculars or a 
small telescope, it will be more obvious as a softly 
glowing ball. Light pollution will make it less 
apparent, so observers in urban areas will probably 
need binoculars or a small telescope to see it.

 During the next two weeks, the comet crosses 
the constellations Taurus, Aries, and Triangulum, 
climbing higher and higher in early evening. It 
passes 10� to the right (west) of the Pleiades star 
cluster on the evenings of January 15 through 17. 
Although by then Comet Lovejoy will be receding 
from Earth, it doesn�t come closest to the Sun until 
January 30, at a rather distant 120 million miles. 
By that date, moonlight will begin to interfere, and 
the comet should be starting to fade as seen from 
Earth�s point of view.

 This is the fifth comet discovery by Australian 
amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy, and he found it 
in images taken with his backyard 8-inch telescope. 
It�s a very long-period comet, meaning that it has 
passed through the inner solar system before, 
roughly 11,500 years ago. Slight gravitational 
perturbations by the planets will alter the orbit 
a bit, so that the comet will next return in about 
8,000 years. Astronomers have given it the official 
designation C/2014 Q2.

 Based on its steady, uninterrupted brightening, 
observers estimate that the comet�s solid, ice-rich 
nucleus is at least 2 or 3 miles across, slightly larger 
than typical for comets. But the glowing object 
we actually see is vastly larger and less substantial 
than the nucleus. The comet�s visible �head,� or 
coma, is a cloud of gas and dust roughly 400,000 
miles across that has been driven off the nucleus by 
the warmth of sunlight.

 Human eyes can�t perceive color in dim 
nighttime objects well, but photographs show that 
Comet Lovejoy has a lovely green hue. The green 
glow comes from molecules of diatomic carbon 
(C2) in the coma that fluoresce in response to 
ultraviolet sunlight. By contrast, Comet Lovejoy�s 
long, delicate gas tail is tinted blue, thanks to 
carbon monoxide ions (CO+) that are likewise 

 In addition, dust in a comet�s coma and tail 
simply reflects sunlight, so dust features appear 
pale yellowish white. The most memorable comets 
tend to have dramatic dust tails, such as spectacular 
Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997 and another discovery 
by Terry Lovejoy, C/2011 W3, in 2011.

 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@

JONATHON Latham,Ph.D. 


A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder




 By conventional wisdom it is 
excellent news. Researchers from 
Iowa have shown that organic 
farming methods can yield almost 
as highly as pesticide-intensive 
methods. Other researchers, from 
Berkeley, California, have reached 
a similar conclusion. Indeed, both 
findings met with a very enthusiastic 
reception. The enthusiasm is appropriate, but only if one misses 
a deep and fundamental point: that even to participate in such a 
conversation is to fall into a carefully laid trap.

The strategic centrepiece of Monsanto�s PR, and also that of just 
about every major commercial participant in the industrialised 
food system, is to focus on the promotion of one single 
overarching idea. The big idea that industrial producers in the 
food system want you to believe is that only they can produce 
enough for the future population (Peekhaus 2010). Thus non-
industrial systems of farming, such as all those which use 
agroecological methods, or SRI, or are localised and family-
oriented, or which use organic methods, or non-GMO seeds, 
cannot feed the world.


To be sure, agribusiness has other PR strategies. Agribusiness 
is �pro-science�, its opponents are �anti-science�, and so on. 
But the main plank has for decades been to create a cast-iron 
moral framing around the need to produce more food (Stone 
and Glover 2011).

Therefore, if you go to the websites of Monsanto and Cargill 
and Syngenta and Bayer, and their bedfellows: the US Farm 
Bureau, the UK National Farmers Union, and the American 
Soybean Association, and CropLife International, or The Bill 
and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, 
USAID, or the international research system (CGIAR), and 
now even NASA, they very early (if not instantaneously) raise 
the �urgent problem� of who will feed the expected global 
population of 9 or 10 billion in 2050.

Likewise, whenever these same organisations compose speeches 
or press releases, or videos, or make any pronouncement 
designed for policymakers or the populace, they devote 
precious space to the same urgent problem. It is even in their 
job advertisements. It is their Golden Fact and their universal 
calling card. And as far as neutrals are concerned it wins the 
food system debate hands down, because it says, if any other 
farming system cannot feed the world, it is irrelevant. Only 
agribusiness can do that.

The real food crisis is of overproduction

Yet this strategy has a disastrous foundational weakness. There 
is no global or regional shortage of food. There never has been 
and nor is there ever likely to be. India has a superabundance 
of food. South America is swamped in food. The US, Australia, 
New Zealand and Europe are swamped in food (e.g. Billen et 
al 2011). In Britain, like in many wealthy countries, nearly half 
of all row crop food production now goes to biofuels, which 
at bottom are an attempt to dispose of surplus agricultural 
products. China isn�t quite swamped but it still exports food (see 
Fig 1.); and it grows 30% of the world�s cotton. No foodpocalypse 
there either.

 Of all the populous nations, Bangladesh comes closest to not 
being swamped in food. Its situation is complex. Its government 
says it is self-sufficient. The UN world Food Program says it is 
not, but the truth appears to be that Bangladeshi farmers do not 
produce the rice they could because prices are too low, because 
of persistent gluts (1).


So, if the agribusiness PR experts are correct that food crisis 
fears are pivotal to their industry, then it follows that those who 
oppose the industrialization of food and agriculture should 
make dismantling that lie their top priority.

Anyone who wants a sustainable, pesticide-free, or non-GMO 
food future, or who wants to swim in a healthy river or lake 
again, or wants to avoid climate chaos, needs to know all this. 
Anyone who would like to rebuild the rural economy or who 
appreciates cultural, biological, or agricultural diversity of any 
meaningful kind should take every possible opportunity to 
point out the evidence that refutes it. Granaries are bulging, 
crops are being burned as biofuels or dumped, prices are 
low, farmers are abandoning farming for slums and cities, all 
because of massive oversupply. Anyone could also point out that 
probably the least important criterion for growing food, is how 
much it yields. Even just to acknowledge crop yield, as an issue 
for anyone other than the individual farmer, is to reinforce the 
framing of the industry they oppose.

 The project to fully industrialise global food production 
is far from complete, yet already it is responsible for most 
deforestation, most marine pollution, most coral reef 
destruction, much of greenhouse gas emissions, most habitat 
loss, most of the degradation of streams and rivers, most food 
insecurity, most immigration, most water depletion, massive 
human health problems, and so on (Foley et al 2005; Foley et 
al 2011). Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that if the 
industrialisation of food is not reversed our planet will be made 
unlivable for multi-cellular organisms. Our planet is becoming 
literally uninhabitable solely as a result of the social and 
ecological consequences of industrialising agriculture. All these 
problems are without even mentioning the trillions of dollars in 
annual externalised costs and subsidies (Pretty et al. 2000).

 So, if one were to devise a strategy for the food movement, it 
would be this. The public already knows (mostly) that pesticides 
are dangerous. They also know that organic food is higher 
quality, and is far more environmentally friendly. It knows 
that GMOs should be labeled, are largely untested, and may 
be harmful. That is why the leaders of most major countries, 
including China, dine on organic food. The immense scale of 
the problems created by industrial agriculture should, of course, 
be understood better, but the main facts are hardly in dispute.

But what industry understands, and the food movement does 
not, is that what prevents total rejection of bland, industrialised, 
pesticide-laden, GMO food is the standard acceptance, 
especially in Western countries, of the overarching agribusiness 
argument that such food is necessary. It is necessary to feed the 

 But, if the food movement could show that famine is an 
empty threat then it would also have shown, by clear implication, 
that the chemical health risks and the ecological devastation 
that these technologies represent are what is unnecessary. The 
movement would have shown that pesticides and GMOs exist 
solely to extract profit from the food chain. They have no other 
purpose. Therefore, every project of the food movement should 
aim to spread the truth of oversupply, until mention of the 
Golden Fact invites ridicule and embarrassment rather than 


 Food campaigners might also consider that a strategy to 
combat the food scarcity myth can unite a potent mix of causes. 
Just as an understanding of food abundance destroys the 
argument for pesticide use and GMOs simultaneously, it also 
creates the potential for common ground within and between 
constituencies that do not currently associate much: health 
advocates, food system workers, climate campaigners, wildlife 
conservationists and international development campaigners. 
None of these constituencies inherently like chemical poisons, 
and they are hardly natural allies of agribusiness, but the 
pressure of the food crisis lie has driven many of them to ignore 
what could be the best solution to their mutual problems: small 
scale farming and pesticide-free agriculture. This is exactly what 
the companies intended.

 So divisive has the Golden Fact been that some non-profits 
have entered into perverse partnerships with agribusiness and 
others support inadequate or positively fraudulent sustainability 
labels. Another consequence has been mass confusion over 
the observation that almost all the threats to the food supply 
(salinisation, water depletion, soil erosion, climate change and 
chemical pollution) come from the supposed solution�the 
industrialisation of food production. These contradictions are 
not real. When the smoke is blown away and the mirrors are 
taken down the choices within the food system become crystal 
clear. They fall broadly into two camps.

 One is a vision, the other is a nightmare: in every single case 
where industrial agriculture is implemented it leaves landscapes 
progressively emptier of life. Eventually, the soil turns either 
into mud that washes into the rivers or into dust that blows away 
on the wind. Industrial agriculture has no long term future; it 
is ecological suicide. But for obvious reasons those who profit 
from it cannot allow all this to become broadly understood. 
That is why the food scarcity lie is so fundamental to them. 
They absolutely depend on it, since it alone can camouflage the 
simplicity of the underlying issues.

I must confess I 
do have some old-
fashioned biases. I 
would be the first to admit I�m not up to 
date on the latest fad or trend. 

 I come from that era that believed the 
well-dressed man is one that doesn�t stand 
out from everybody else. I�ve tried to keep 
to that all these years. I certainly don�t want 
to stand out and have people recognize me 
or point their finger at me and whispered to 
each other.

 For years, I�ve been very careful about 
that. Now, it seems that because I try to 
dress like a well-dressed man and not stand 
out I am in fact standing out. Nobody, 
except me and two other people, really care 
about being well-dressed.

 This has never been an issue with me and 
it even now is not an issue. But reflecting 
on the past year and looking forward to 
the year before me, I have to take some 
calculations. According to my calculation, 
I no longer fit into that �well-dressed man� 
category, because the term �well-dressed 
man� does not mean what it used to mean.

 I hate it when something outlasts its 

 To be a well-dressed man today, 
according to the latest fads and trends I 
have noticed, I need to throw away my belt 
and let my trousers drop all the way down 
to my knees.

 Let me go on record as saying, never in a 
million years will that happen.

 Then there is the issue about a necktie. 
Am I the last person on planet earth 
wearing a necktie?

 Very few people today know how to tie 
a necktie. Well, I do and I will until they 
put me in a casket and then I hope I�m still 
wearing a tie. So if you come to my funeral 
and look at me in the casket and I�m not 
wearing a tie, complain to someone for me.

 The latest trends and fads have no interest 
to me whatsoever.

 This came to my attention recently 
when I had to sign some legal papers for 
something to do with the church. I had to 
sign here, initial there, sign the next page, 
initial three pages and it went on and on 
until I ran out of ink.

 I�m one of those old-fashioned guys that 
use a fountain pen and all that signing and 
initialing drained all of the ink out of my 
fountain pen. Before I finished, I was on the 
verge of carpal tunnel.

 I sighed rather deeply, looked at the 
gentleman (I think he was a gentleman 
because he was dressed like a gentleman), 
and said kind of sarcastically, �Do you 
remember the old-fashioned handshake?�

 He looked at me without smiling and 
then said, �Here are some more papers for 
you to sign.�

 I thought I was signing my life away, but 
in reality, I was just signing my ink away.

 I do remember when a handshake really 
meant something. Just about everything 
was sealed with a handshake and both 
parties were as good as their word. It 
would take a lot of undoing to undo that 
handshake. Now, you�re only as good as 
the word on a piece of paper over your 
signature. Then, some lawyer can finagle 
it around to mean something other than 
what you really meant it in the first place. 
So what�s the purpose of all this?

 I know you�re not supposed to say this, 
but I will, I sure long for the good old days 
when a handshake was all you needed. I get 
tired of the rigmarole passing as business 
these days. I get tired of paperwork that�s 
piled higher than the tallest tree in the 

 Of course, if we go back to that handshake 
scenario, it will put many lawyers out of 
business. What would these people do for 
a living? I have some ideas, but I�m going to 
keep that to myself.

 Trust has gone out of our culture today 
because everybody is only after what they 
can get for themselves and they don�t care 
how they get it.

 A handshake met something in �the day.� 
In fact, I believe it was more binding than 
all of the paperwork and signed documents 
and legalese we have today. It�s hard to sue a 

 What I want to know is simply this. 
When we replaced the good old-fashioned 
handshake with all of this legalese stuff, 
are we better off? Have we simplified 
everything and covered all of the bases?

The answer is a loud no. A man�s word used 
to be his bond and something he would 
never go back on.

 The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage 
and I have lived on that marital philosophy 
all of our married life. I know in the marriage 
ceremony there is no �handshake.� But the 
philosophy of that handshake is right there. 
When I said �I do,� and she responded by 
another �I do,� we were shaking hands 
and saying to everybody around us but 
particularly to one another, �We do.�

 I think James shook the right hand 
when he wrote, �But above all things, my 
brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, 
neither by the earth, neither by any other 
oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, 
nay; lest ye fall into condemnation� (James 

 I�m all for getting back to the good old 
days when a handshake was all you needed. 


Rev. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family 
of God Fellowship, PO Box 831313, Ocala, 
FL 34483. He lives with his wife, Martha, 
in Silver Springs Shores. Call him at 1-866-
552-2543 or e-mail or