New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Archive for the ‘Devon G. Pena’

Justice Begins with Seeds

August 15, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy

Reclaiming a Free, Fair, and Democratic Food System

by Devon G. Peña

I was recently at an international gathering in Seattle comprised of a diverse network of farmers, farm workers, union and community organizers, seed savers, plant breeders, consumer right-to-know activists, research scholars, students, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and elected officials. What we all shared in common is a thirst for justice and an understanding that “Justice Begins with Seeds,” which was the theme of the meeting organized by the California-based Biosafety Alliance.

The theme of the conference reflects part of a global social movement response to the enclosure of the biological heritage of humanity by the biotechnology industry — the “Gene Giants” like Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta — which seeks to privatize ownership of seeds and make all living things patentable. (more…)

A Unique Struggle

August 02, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Politics

Farmworkers in Washington State Mobilize for Dignity, Rights

by Devon G. Peña

Burlington is not a very old city center and got its start in 1902 as a logging camp. Today the small town of 8,380, located in the  Skagit River watershed north of Seattle, does count with a prosperous fruit and vegetable agricultural industry. Of course, the industry relies on mostly migrant families for farm labor. This is especially the case during harvest work and strawberry crops present an opportunity for workers to seize the current condition of ‘labor scarcity’ and high demand for skilled pickers during harvest time to organize for their workplace rights. And that is exactly what has happened in the State of Washington, and not in the Yakima or Wenatchee valleys but on the western side of the Cascades where peri-urban farming is increasingly big business. (more…)

Dead or Alive?

July 19, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy, Politics

Reflections on 30 Years of the Environmental Justice Movement 

by Devon G. Peña

I was having a very serious conversation this morning with a University of New Mexico graduate student preparing for her dissertation proposal defense when talk eventually turned to the question of the status of the environmental justice movement (EJM). My colleague — who is a highly respected activist in New Mexico — declared that the movement is largely dead. The EJM, she explained, is a casualty of defunding and especially the loss of financial support for the various national and regional networks. There is no national movement, she argued, because the funders abandoned their commitment to the EJ organizations.

I can vouch for at least aspects of this view in that sense that many of the larger, trend-setting grantmakers like the Ford Foundation refused to fund what would have been the Third Environmental Justice Summit we had planned for 2012; with the painful absence of Ford, no other funders stepped into the void to continue supporting an earth-shaking, history-making event. (more…)

Demilitarize the Border

July 09, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Devon G. Pena, Politics

Demonstrations Move for Humane Immigration Policies

by Devon G. Peña

On June 27th, the United States Senate approved an amendment to the evolving comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill. The amendment dramatically expands enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border creating what Senator John McCain proudly announced as the greatest border militarization since the Fall of the Berlin Wall.The Arizona Senator did not appear to notice the contradictory irony underlying his statement: The Berlin Wall was finally brought down by people seeking peace and reunification, ending militarization; the Tortilla Curtain keeps going up, promoting conflict and disunity. Does this mean that the human fence consisting of 40,000 border patrol agents is analogous to the East German military border patrol and the Stasi secret police? How is this an accomplishment worthy of a civilized nation? (more…)

No Patents on Life

June 28, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Devon G. Pena, Ecology

Supreme Court Ruling Could Change Debate Over Transgenic Crops

by Devon G. Peña

In a historic 9-0 ruling on June 13th, the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) rejected the patent claims of a private corporation, Myriad Genetics, which claimed that it held ownership of a gene that is associated with breast cancer. Use this link for the full text of the ruling: Association for Molecular Pathology, et al v. Myriad Genetics, et al.

The rare unanimous opinion was actually written by Justice Clarence Thomas who firmly rejected Myriad’s assertion that the DNA it isolated from the human body for its tests were patentable. Explaining the ruling for the court, Justice Thomas wrote: “We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated.” Myriad Genetics patented the genes sequence in question — BRCA1 and BRCA2 — in 1995.

Myriad, which is now based in Salt Lake City, Utah, had patented the gene based on research conducted by Nary Clair King, at the time a professor at University of California-Berkeley and now a University of Washington Professor of Genome Sciences. (more…)

Transgender Migrants

June 14, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Devon G. Pena, Politics

State Violence and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

by Devon G. Peña

“Death is unspeakable. It is silenced by the austere and pious rhetoric of nationalism, ‘honor’, ‘compassion’, and the ‘culture of life’ itself.” — Stuart J. Murray, “Thanatopolitics,” p. 196

“Death is not a biological moment but a political decision.” — Lindsay A. Hall, “Death, power, and the body,” p. ii

Let us never forget Victoria Arellano. She was a 23-year-old transgender immigrant from Mexico murdered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security while in detention in May of 2007. It has been six years almost to the day and no one has ever been charged with her murder or even discharged from staff positions at the Customs and Border Enforcement (CBE) detention center on Terminal Island in San Pedro, California where she was killed. It is ironic that until the 19th century Terminal Island was known as La Isla del Muerto (The Island of the Dead).

I was reminded of Victoria’s death this morning after awakening from a restless sleep. This may sound odd but what woke me up was my inability to stop thinking about the implications posed by the passage of the current Gang of Eight immigration reform packet, as it now seems it might. What will it mean for Mexican and other undocumented immigrants? I am finishing Dispossession: The Performative in the Political (2013), a book in which Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou engage in a lengthy conversation about the conditions and struggles of people who are dispossessed — those who have lost land, property, citizenship, or even a sense of a broader belonging to the world (alienation?). (more…)

End of the Line

May 17, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Devon G. Pena, Ecology

Communities of Color Cope with the Brunt of Petrochemical Waste

by Devon G. Peña

The East Side of Houston, Texas is known as el barrio de los pobres — the poor people’s neighborhood. Historically, the residents here have been predominantly African American but more recently many of the neighborhoods have been settled by Latina/o immigrants, most of them Mexicans who have joined some of the older Chicana/o families with roots in the area dating back 3-4 generations.

The East Side is also ground zero in any ‘toxic tour’ of Harris County. In fact, the area is the urban center for the region’s petrochemical industry. It is not unusual to see homes surrounded by tank farms; schoolyards, playgrounds, or athletic fields located next to fractionating towers and smokestacks belching black smoke or burning-off excess chemicals and gases. These are iconic fence-line communities. The East Side is currently home to four major petrochemical plant complexes: Valero Refinery, Texas Petro-Chemical, LyondellBasell, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber. (more…)