We at Utne Reader sift through 1,500 periodicals, skim hundreds of websites and blogs, and clamber over a mountain of new books to present the best the alternative press has to offer. Unfortunately, the magazine we deliver is only about 100 pages long, so we can’t reprint all of the fresh ideas, deeply-reported journalism, and vivid portraits that we read. Thus, we blog. The following five blogs were your favorites from 2011.
5) “A New Peace Symbol” by David Schimke
Sometimes, short blog posts are the best. That was the case with Editor-in-Chief David Schimke’s hat-tip to the new international symbol for human rights. An excerpt:
“Free as a Man,” created by Serbian artist Predrag Stakic, is the winner of an online competition conducted by the Human Rights Logo Initiative, which is on a mission to make the design an internationally recognized symbol for human rights.
4) “Organic v. Monsanto” by Danielle Magnuson
How many organic farmers does it take to fight against the biggest food corporation on the planet? Turns out, about 270,000. Associate editor Danielle Magnuson reported on the legal suit filed by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association that aims to take sustainable farming back into the hands of the those that work the land. An excerpt:
[W]ith patented seeds infiltrating the environment so fully, organic itself is at risk. Monsanto’s widely used Genuity® Roundup Ready® canola seed has already turned heirloom canola oil into an extinct species. The suing farmers are seeking to prevent similar contamination of organic corn, soybeans, and a host of other crops. What’s more, they’re seeking to prevent Monsanto from accusing them of unlawfully using the very seeds they’re trying to avoid.
3) “The Meditation Makeover: Before and After” by Margret Aldrich
Could you pick out someone who just meditated if they passed you on the street? You’d want to look for a calm countenance, wide eyes, and an absence of tension. Although contentious, the images from the “Before and After” project seem to speak for themselves.
2) “Militarized to its Bones” by Tom Engelhardt, from TomDispatch
Our small staff covered the Occupy Wall Street movement to the best of our ability from 1,000 miles away. Sometimes, though, we needed to rely on the perspective of writers a little closer to the action. Outspoken and adversarial progressive Tom Engelhardt was reporting on the ground through OWS’s growing pains. An excerpt:
On a recent visit to the park, I found the streets around the Stock Exchange barricaded and blocked off to traffic, and police everywhere in every form (in and out of uniform)—on foot, on scooters, on motorcycles, in squad cars with lights flashing, on horses, in paddy wagons or minivans, you name it. At the park’s edge, there is a police observation tower capable of being raised and lowered hydraulically and literally hundreds of police are stationed in the vicinity. I counted more than 50 of them on just one of its sides at a moment when next to nothing was going on—and many more can be seen almost anywhere in the Wall Street area, lolling in doorways, idling in the subway, ambling on the plazas of banks, and chatting in the middle of traffic-less streets.
1) “‘Cows Eat Grass’ and Other Inflammatory Statements” by Keith Goetzman
This was a slow-burning blog, as senior editor Keith Goetzman actually wrote it in 2010. But the story of the agriculture expert whose seemingly-simple statement that “cows eat grass” did more than chronicle an unbelievable hubbub in Iowa—it exposed the depth of Big Ag’s entrenchment. An excerpt:
If this were a TV game show, a loud buzzer would have gone off and Mr. Salvador would have been escorted from the stage that very moment. Because apparently he was supposed to say that cows should eat corn. Even if that’s not natural or sustainable, it’s simply how things are done in Iowa, a state built on big agriculture.