About Us

Contact Us

this & that

april 3, 2000

Go, grapes!

The bad news, according to the Pesticide Action Network, is that the rich farmlands of California soak up more than 50 million pounds of dangerous chemicals every year. That’s a three-million-pound increase in fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and soil fumigants since 1994. The prime target is strawberries — 148 pounds per acre — because farmers invest everything in one luscious crop and can’t afford to fail.

The good news is that some crops, particularly grapes, peaches, and nectarines, are beginning to receive less of the toxic stuff as growers learn to rely on compost and beneficial insects. The hero in the vineyards is Gary Pitts, who tends 900 acres of table grapes near Fresno. No spick-and-span farmer is Pitt. "Some guys don't let a weed out in the vineyard," he says. "They're obsessed with clean, and their soil is as dead as a doornail." His soil churns with earthworms, and between the rows of his vines is a carpet of barley, oats, and snowpeas, teeming with all sorts of friendly bugs just waiting for a meal of nasty pests. Writing in the LA Times, Mark Arax croons almost poetically over Pitts’s crop: "His yields are often double those of his neighbors, the globe, crimson and Thompson seedless grapes hanging like stalactites from the leafy canopy."

DTCOM-1.jpg (29666 bytes)


Have you OD’ed on dot.coms? Is your brain supersaturated with ebays and ecommerces and epinions? Do you wish the letter "e" had never been invented, to say nothing of jangling radio plugs for jobs in exciting, state-of-the-art workplaces?


A mini-rebellion is fomenting, says Wired, beginning in San Francisco’s Mission District and spreading — cybernetically, of course — as far as Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and even London. No, the Yuppie Eradication Movement hasn’t revived. This one is the work of a 30-year-old techie and his friends. The anonymous ringleader goes by the name of Sam Lowry, borrowed from the movie "Brazil." "It's not like I'm a Luddite or against any of this," he says. "What I'm against is how it's kind of created this kind of culture of people who ... I mean, like I was saying in my office one day, 'Can anyone sew? Does anyone know how to, like, make a table out of wood?' It's all about this weird dot-com."

The insidious campaign reveals itself primarily by means of stickers — Avery#8164 White Shipping Labels work fine, says the blowthedotoutyourass website. Armed with a downloaded "BTDOYA sticker starter fun kit," happy guerrillas have fanned out through the streets of SOMA and elsewhere, attaching stickers to newsracks and posters to plywood walls. The messages are attention-grabbing and often scatological, but not everyone gets the point. Lowry says he meets people who think he’s just another dot.com starter-upper, and some have suggested a T-shirt spin-off.