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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Okayama farmers use ducks to battle rice plant-eating snails

What makes this story so compelling to me, is a sad story. Some years ago, when I was in Indonesian on the beautiful island of Bali, I was walking back in the mountains along the narrow curving paths between the rice fields and noticed that there were no ducks. What made this observation so peculiar, was that I'd been to similar rice fields a few years before and there were always many ducks. It was a great system (for everyone but the ducks, I guess ;-), the ducks ate the snails and bugs that had been eating the rice. When the ducks fattened up, they became unwilling table dressing.

But there were, in just a few short years, NO DUCKS! So I asked a few of the rice farmers why this was so and where were the ducks. I heard the same disturbing story from everyone I talked to. They told me that some important people came from a huge American chemical company, and told them how to get rid of the snails, THE MODERN WAY! They (the 'helpful' Americans) gave them free fancy backpack sprayers and enough chemicals for a year per farmer. These Balinese farmers had never met such nice people. And besides, they all looked so cool wearing these space aged backpack sprayers. So naturally the farmers started using all their cool new stuff. Well, you can probably figure out the "rest of the story".

The ducks all died a horrible death, and would no longer return to the fields, so at the end of the year, the snails and bug returned en masse, and destroyed that years crop. So the farmers contacted their cool new American friends for more chemicals to help them with their new problem. Guess what????? The chemicals were no longer free. Surprise, surprise. The large American chemical company now had new customers for life.

And in America, they prosecute drug dealers for much the same thing. I hear you say that drugs are different because they can harm and even kill people. Well, I don't really see any difference at all. Call me naive, but what's the difference between dying of illicit drugs or dying of chemical poisoning? DEAD IS DEAD1 Maybe we ought to hang a few of these new friends of the innocent Balinese farmers. Not only would it serve them right, but might also send a lesson to these companies, that just because their losing their markets in the 'educated' parts of the world, doesn't mean they can dump their death on the innocent places.

Now the Balinese are eating rice grown in waters so saturated with deadly chemicals that no life can live there anymore. Crop yields are down (no more natural fertilizer from the duck dropping perhaps?), and what is being produced can only be produced with the 'help' of chemicals. How long until the Balinese end up dying the same horrible unnatural death as their ducks.

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