Friday, December 30, 2011

Voting with Our Farms and Forks against Climate Catastrophe

Voting with Our Farms and Forks against Climate Catastrophe

If we allow the infamous "one percent" to continue with business as usual, we will soon be arriving at civilization's last stop, climate hell. If we allow the U.S. and global fossil fuel/military industrial/corporate agribusiness economy to keep turning up the planet's delicately balanced thermostat, raising average global temperatures by two degrees Celsius or more, we will soon pass the point of no return, detonating runaway global warming. Among the catastrophic consequences of runaway global warming will be the release of a significant portion of the 1.7 trillion tons of deadly methane now sequestered in the shallow Arctic seabeds and permafrost (equivalent to twice the amount of total greenhouse gas pollution currently in the atmosphere). As the International Energy Agency warned on November 9, the world is accelerating toward irreversible climate change. We will lose the chance to avert catastrophic warming if we don't take bold action in the next five years to sharply reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; drastically increase energy efficiency in the food, transportation, utilities, and housing sectors; and safely sequester billions of tons of greenhouse gases in our soils, plants, and forests through organic soil management and permaculture practices. In other words we have approximately 1800 days left to avert catastrophe.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The End of the Consumerist Model

The End of the Consumerist Model

"I am writing these reflections in the midst of economic and political debates taking place throughout the world about the necessity of implementing stimulus plans to limit the destructive effects of the First planetary economic crisis of the capitalist world."

Thursday, November 24, 2011


(from Native Circle)

The Thanksgiving Myth
by John Two-Hawks

   Let me begin by stating that thousands of years before the 'official'
Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed by Governor Winthrop of the
Massachussetts Bay Colony in 1637, North American Indigenous
people across the continent had celebrated seasons of Thanksgiving.
'Thanksgiving' is a very ancient concept to American Indian nations.
The big problem with the American Thanksgiving holiday is its false
association with American Indian people.  The infamous 'Indians and
pilgrims' myth.  It is good to celebrate Thanksgiving, to be thankful
for your blessings.  It is not good to distort history, to falsely portray
the origin of this holiday and lie about the truth of its actual inception.
Here are some accurate historical facts about the true origin of this
American holiday that may interest you...

   'Thanksgiving' did not begin as a great loving relationship between the
pilgrims and the Wampanoag, Pequot and Narragansett people.  In fact,
in October of 1621 when the 'pilgrim' survivors of their first winter in
Turtle Island sat down to share the first unofficial 'Thanksgiving' meal,
the Indians who were there were not even invited!  There was no turkey,
squash, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.  A few days before this alleged
feast took place, a company of 'pilgrims' led by Miles Standish actively
sought the head of a local Indian leader, and an 11 foot high wall was
erected around the entire Plymouth settlement for the very purpose of
keeping Indians out!  Officially, the holiday we know as 'Thanksgiving'
actually came into existence in the year 1637. Governor Winthrop of the
Massachussetts Bay Colony proclaimed this first official day of Thanksgiving
and feasting to celebrate the return of the colony's men who had arrived
safely from what is now Mystic, Connecticut.  They had gone there to
participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot men, women and children,
and Mr. Winthrop decided to dedicate an official day of thanksgiving
complete with a feast to 'give thanks' for their great 'victory'....

   As hard as it may be to conceive, this is the actual origin of our current
Thanksgiving Day holiday.  Many American Indian people these days do
not observe this holiday, for obvious reasons.  I see nothing wrong with
gathering with family to give thanks to our Creator for our blessings and
sharing a meal.  I do, however, hope that Americans as a whole will one
day acknowledge the true origin of this holiday, and remember the pain,
loss, and agony of the Indigenous people who suffered at the hands of
the so-called 'pilgrims'.  It is my hope that children's plays about 'the
first Thanksgiving', complete with Indians and pilgrims chumming at
the dinner table, will someday be a thing of the past.  Why perpetuate
a lie?  Let us face the truths of the past, and give thanks that we are
learning to love one another for the rich human diversity we share.

(Written by John Two-Hawks) 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Home-Made Tabasco!

   Back in June I posted about getting the food mill and making hot pepper sauce. Because we've been shopping at Costco quite a bit this year to cut expenses, the large bottle of Tabasco we had in the 'fridge lasted quite a while. I finally drained it the other night when we had burritos. I washed the bottle out and grabbed one of the pints from June and opened it, not knowing for sure if I would be filling the Tabasco bottle or pouring the jar down the drain.

   Great news! It turned out really good! It's almost identical to Tabasco except for the color which is more of a darker red as opposed to bright red (probably because I didn't use the chemicals). To be completely honest, my preference would have been something more like Frank's Red Hot (which is why I was generous with the garlic), but I am very happy with the results! One pint filled the Tabasco with a significant amount leftover. That bottle lasted several months, so the five pints I made in June should keep us covered for a good, long time.

   Now our pantry is stocked with home-made ketchup, mayonnaise, relish, salsa, and hot pepper sauce!

   Next I need to learn to make mustard!

Resolutions Revisited

   Sorry to my loyal readers (all four of you) that I have not posted anything in a while. I've been busy with work, family, and the whole Occupy movement that I hope is a step toward real change on the horizon (I'd even be happy to admit that it began with the Tea Party movement (which really had more in common with the Occupy movement at it's genesis than you may think, but that's another post altogether...)).

   I am posting today because today is a very special day. In January I posted my resolutions for the year, the primary of which was to pay down our debt. In a post titled 2011 Resolutions, I set some other general goals for the year, maintaining paying down our debt as the priority.

   I am only mildly disappointed to say that I did not really make a lot of progress on most things this year. The summer was short and the garden did not do well. The weather also kept me from getting out to hike, run, or go backpacking nearly as much as I intended. My writing/music projects had to be shelved as my job changed dramatically in April, consuming my creative energies (though it turned out to not be a bad thing as I had expected). I was able to go on one elk hunting excursion, but did not do any other hunting this year. I did not brew any beer, learn cheese making or baking. I don't think I can ever spend enough time with my son.

   I did get a little work done on our 1969 VW bus -- a late resolution that I do not believe I posted about -- but even that was modest progress at best. I also got a food mill after I learned that Coinstar will trade coins for certificates at no charge. The food mill has been great for processing food and canning!

   I am only mildly disappointed by all of this because of what we did today.

   Today we made the final payment on our last debt! The only thing we owe is our current rent, utilities, etc. We have severed all ties with every corporate bank and own our entire lives outright. For myself, personally, it is probably the first time since the mid-eighties that I can say that.

   In January, when I said we were going to focus on paying down our debt this year I thought, "How great would it be to be out of debt by the end of the year?" Of course, I did not think it was realistic. As we cut our household budget and committed every dime we could spare to our highest interest debt first, and then the next one, and then the next one, at one point my wife and I started saying -- extremely optimistically but consistently -- "If we keep this up, we'll have everything paid off before Thanksgiving!"

   Thanksgiving is three days away. We have paid off our debt. All of it.

   As I sit here now writing this I can not express the sense of amazement that I have. Remember that saying about what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it? As a tone-deaf kid who knowingly committed to "a life of poverty and obscurity" at age 15, wanting to one day "make a living as a musician" and having done exactly that for the past decade, I am beginning to think there might be something to it.

   From now on I'm dreaming BIG!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: It’s Not a Hippie Thing

Occupy Wall Street: It’s Not a Hippie Thing

For all its social snootiness, Wall Street has suffered far more from the meddling of members of its own class than from intrusions by those outside it. It was Franklin D. Roosevelt, an aristocrat, who held the lords of finance responsible for the Great Depression—securing legislation to establish the Securities and Exchange Commission, asserting federal authority over the stock exchange, and appointing a wealthy stock trader, Joseph Kennedy Sr., to ride herd. Not much better, from Wall Street’s perspective, was FDR’s Cousin Teddy, who as President prosecuted trusts as illegal monopolies. Or Louis Brandeis, a Harvard-trained corporate attorney turned crusader against the concentration of wealth and power.

These men changed the system from within, as have the ablest regulators in recent times. Arthur Levitt Jr., a vigorous SEC chairman under President Bill Clinton, was first the president of Shearson Hayden Stone. (Levitt is a member of the board of Bloomberg L.P., owner of Bloomberg Businessweek.) Paul A. Volcker cut his teeth at Chase Manhattan before running the Federal Reserve and becoming the gruff animating voice behind the Volcker Rule, which bans commercial banks from engaging in proprietary trading. It’s hard to imagine any of these “opponents” of Wall Street mounting a barricade. They didn’t need to storm the castle to know where the secrets were hidden.

In its very amateurism, Occupy Wall Street represents something new. Although it’s attracted some celebrities and well-heeled supporters, participants come chiefly from outside Wall Street. Many are unemployed or poorly employed. These are not bankers or reform-minded professors; these are also-rans in the capitalist race, upset with the system itself. Their chief weapon is neither eloquence nor argument, but their physical presence.

As critics have noted, the protesters are not in complete agreement with each other, but the overall message is reasonably coherent. They want more and better jobs, more equal distribution of income, less profit (or no profit) for banks, lower compensation for bankers, and more strictures on banks with regard to negotiating consumer services such as mortgages and debit cards. They also want to reduce the influence that corporations—financial firms in particular—wield in politics, and they want a more populist set of government priorities: bailouts for student debtors and mortgage holders, not just for banks.

In its grassroots and leftist character, Occupy Wall Street bears a superficial resemblance to protests from the ’60s and early ’70s. But the Woodstock Era was different in ways that tell us important things about the current siege. Then, radical students preached an affinity with the “working class,” but it was rare that the students and any members of the working class actually joined arms...

There are now protests flourishing around the country, including my hometown. Occupy Boston is at the foot of the financial district in Dewey Square, which is given over to scores of closely packed, brightly colored camping tents. On the same day I toured the site, Ben S. Bernanke visited the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, right across the street, though no one on the square seemed to know it. Nor did Bernanke wander over.

The message in Boston is the same as in New York, but with a more desperate edge. Stan Malcolm told me he had been working in flooring—an industry hit hard by the real estate slump—until 18 months ago, when his employer shut down. “There ain’t no work anywhere,” he said. Since then he has been doing day labor and eating at soup kitchens. I asked what he will do when the cold weather comes. Wasting not a syllable, he replied: “Bundle up.”

Occupy Wall Street: It’s Not a Hippie Thing

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jensen Farms Packing Operation Fatally Flawed

Jensen Farms Packing Operation Fatally Flawed

Industrial agriculture does it again!

"The nationwide outbreak of listeriosis, which has killed 25 people and sickened 98 others, is the first involving Listeria-contaminated whole cantaloupes."

Thoughts on American Capitalism

   I haven't posted anything here in a little while because I've been preoccupied with the Occupy Wall Street protest. Personally, I think it's high time Americans stood up and said, "We've had enough!" and I think it's great that the movement has gone global. Thomas Jefferson said, "I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.", and, "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the Atmosphere." What's happening now is a good thing.

   I wanted to take some time today to offer some ideas on why this rebellion has risen up. I am in no way a spokesperson for any Occupy event/movement, so don't misunderstand, these are just the thoughts of one citizen.

   I believe far too many Americans believe that we have a capitalist economy. Far too many Americans believe we have a democracy. Both of these are false and I believe that the misperceptions of these two things have helped politicians to polarize party lines.

   The U.S. government was not founded as a democracy. The founding fathers did not trust the average citizen to not be taken in by a silver-tongued devil. Looking at the country and it's media today it could be argued that the founding fathers were ahead of their time. Democracies had been shown to be too chaotic to be sustainable so they set up a republic wherein we the people get to elect representatives to make decisions and run the country on our behalf. What that means for the average citizen is, if you are not satisfied with the way your representatives in government are running things, you need to communicate that to them and if they don't listen you need to elect someone who will. I know this is more work than most Americans want to do, but if you let the government run itself it will act in it's own best interest (as it has).

   (The good news is that this is much easier to do today than it has been in the past! I would recommend going to and signing up for updates on what your representatives are voting for and against. While you're at it look up some activist sites that concern themselves with things you care about and sign up with them. Many send out petitions and letters on key issues that you can sign and follow. Get your representatives' email addresses and phone numbers and contact them directly. Tell them what you want and ask for explanations if they don't do it. Keep them accountable!)

   Capitalism. Look around. This is not what Adam Smith had in mind. Before anyone starts quoting The Wealth of Nations out of context let me just remind everyone that Smith first wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments -- his own personally favored work -- and The Wealth of Nations was intended to be considered as the next chapter to The Theory of Moral Sentiment, not as a stand-alone piece.

   That said, do we really have a capitalist system where one person can build a business and thrive? In some cases, yes. In most cases, though, no and the odds are looking more and more like those on a lottery ticket. Assuming that one does have the resources and talent to build a business and make it successful, navigating through government regulations and personal and business litigation, that business will likely have to compete with one or more huge corporations that are likely deemed "too big to fail" by their board members in Washington D.C. The deck has been stacked and the game is not the same as it was in the late 1700's.

   I recently read an argument that if you took someone from the "rich 1%" and took away everything, they would not complain that they couldn't find a job, they would make their own job and create more jobs in the process. I feel this is oversimplified and that if you put this imaginary person into similar circumstances as the average American (i.e. school loans, children, hospital bills, auto repairs, etc.) the story might vary. But let's assume it's absolutely true. Why should we be content with a system that rewards a single talent on the backs of those with other talents? I know some people who are very good at business. I know more people who have had businesses that either failed or never fully supported them. Most of the people I know are very good at things other than owning and operating a business. Why don't we reward the people who teach the next generation or farmers who create our food supply in the same way we reward someone who can find loopholes in the tax code, has a talent for stock speculation, or is willing to neglect their health and family for the almighty dollar? Isn't the person who drives a truck or the person who builds and maintains the road an important part of the distribution system on which many businesses are built?

   The fact that our transportation and energy systems have not really changed all that much in the past one hundred years is an indicator of how we have all become complacent. The system is antiquated and it's high time for an update. Our country needs a reboot. Two hundred and some years ago when the U.S. was being established there were those who believed we should be a simple, agrarian society and not be too involved in the world's affairs. Others wanted something that looked more like England's empire. When decisions were made, guess who came to the table?

   It's time for us all to show up to the table and make our voices heard.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City


Declaration of the Occupation of New York City
Posted on September 30, 2011 by NYCGA

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

Bill Maher On Ending Abusive Relationships - With Your Bank

Monday, October 3, 2011

Food And Climate Change

   This is an EXCELLENT article from Grain!!

Food and climate change: The forgotten link

GRAIN | 28 September 2011 | Against the grain

Food is a key driver of climate change. How our food gets produced and how it ends up on our tables accounts for around half of all human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. Chemical fertilizers, heavy machinery and other petroleum-dependant farm technologies contribute significantly. The impact of the food industry as a whole is even greater: destroying forests and savannahs to produce animal feed and generating climate-damaging waste through excess packaging, processing, refrigeration and the transport of food over long distances, despite leaving millions of people hungry.

A new food system could be a key driver of solutions to climate change. People around the world are involved in struggles to defend or create ways of growing and sharing food that are healthier for their communities and for the planet. If measures are taken to restructure agriculture and the larger food system around food sovereignty, small scale farming, agro-ecology and local markets, we could cut global emissions in half within a few decades. We don’t need carbon markets or techno-fixes. We need the right policies and programmes to dump the current industrial food system and create a sustainable, equitable and truly productive one instead.

Food and climate: piecing the puzzle together

Most studies put the contribution of agricultural emissions – the emissions produced on the farm - at somewhere between 11 and 15% of all global emissions.[1] What often goes unsaid, however, is that most of these emissions are generated by industrial farming practices that rely on chemical (nitrogen) fertilizers, heavy machinery run on petrol, and highly concentrated industrial livestock operations that pump out methane waste.

The figures for agriculture's contribution also often do not account for its role in land use changes and deforestation, which are responsible for nearly a fifth of global GHG emissions.[2] Worldwide, agriculture is pushing into savannas, wetlands, cerrados and forests, plowing under huge amounts of land. The expansion of the agricultural frontier is the dominant contributor to deforestation, accounting for between 70-90% of global deforestation.[3] This means that some 15-18% of global GHG emissions are produced by land-use change and deforestation caused by agriculture. And here too, the global food system and its industrial model of agriculture are the chief culprits. The main driver of this deforestation is the expansion of industrial plantations for the production of commodities such as soy, sugarcane, oilpalm, maize and rapeseed.

Since 1990, the area planted with these five commodity crops grew by 38%[4] though land planted to staple foods like rice and wheat declined.

Emissions from agriculture account for only a portion of the food system's overall contribution to climate change. Equally important is what happens from between the time food leaves the farm until it reaches our tables.

Food is the world's biggest economic sector, involving more transactions and employing more people by far than any other. These days food is prepared and distributed using enormous amounts of processing, packaging and transportation, all of which generateGHG emissions, although data on such emissions are hard to find. Studies looking at the EU conclude that about one quarter of overall transportation involves commercial food transport[5] The scattered figures on transportation available for other countries, such as Kenya and Zimbabwe, indicate that the percentage is even higher in non-industrialised countries, where food production and delivery accounts for 60-80% of the total energy - human plus animal plus fuel – used.”[6]  With transportation accounting for 25% of global GHG emissions, we can use the EU data to conservatively estimate that the transport of food accounts for at least 6% of global GHG emissions. When it comes to processing and packaging, again the available data is mainly from the EU, where studies show that the processing and packaging of food accounts for between 10-11% of GHG emissions,[7] while refrigeration of food accounts for 3-4% [8]of total emissions and food retail another 2%.[9]

Playing it conservative with the EU figures and extrapolating from the scarce figures that exist for other countries, we can estimate that at least 5-6% of emissions are due to food transport, 8-10% due to food processing and packaging, around 1-2% due to refrigeration, and 1-2% due to retail. This gives us a total contribution of 15-20% of global emissions from these activities.

Not all of what the food system produces gets consumed. The industrial food system discards up to half of all the food that it produces, in its journey from farms to traders, to food processors, to stores and supermarkets. This is enough to feed the world’s hungry six times over.[10]  A lot of this waste rots away on garbage heaps and landfills, producing substantial amounts of greenhouse gases. Different studies indicate that somewhere between 3.5 to 4.5 of global GHG emissions come from waste, and that over 90% of them come from materials originating in agriculture and their processing.[11] This means that the decomposition of organic waste originating in food and agriculture is responsible for 3-4% of global GHG emissions.

Add the above figures together, factor up the evidence, and there is a compelling case that the current global food system, propelled by an increasingly powerful transnational food industry, is responsible for around half of all human produced greenhouse gas emissions: anywhere between a low of 44% to a high of 57%. The graph below illustrates the conclusion:

Turning the food system upside down

Clearly, we will not get out of the climate crisis if the global food system is not urgently and dramatically transformed. The place to start is with the soil.

Food begins and ends with soil. It grows out of the soil and eventually goes back in it to enable more food to be produced. This is the very cycle of life. But in recent years humans have ignored this vital cycle. We have been taking from the soil without giving back.The industrialisation of agriculture, starting in Europe and North America, replicating later through the Green Revolution in other parts of the world, was based on the assumption that soil fertility could be maintained and increased through the use of chemical fertilisers. Little attention was paid to the importance of organic matter in the soil.

A wide range of scientific reports indicate that cultivated soils have lost from 30 to 75% of their organic matter during the 20th century, while soils under pastures and prairies have typically lost up to 50%. There is no doubt that these losses have provoked a serious deterioration of soil fertility and productivity, as well as contributing to worsening droughts and floods.

Taking as a basis some of the most conservative figures provided by scientific literature, the global accumulated loss of soil organic matter over the last century may be estimated to be between 150 to 200 billion tonnes.[12] Not all this organic matter ended up in the air as CO2, as significant amounts have been washed away by erosion and have been deposited in the bottom of rivers and oceans.  However, it can be estimated that at least 200 to 300 billion tonnes of CO2 have been released to the atmosphere due to the global destruction of soil organic matter. In other words, 25 to 40% of the current excess of CO2 in the atmosphere comes from the destruction of soils and its organic matter.

There is some good news hidden in these devastating figures. The CO2 that we have sent into the atmosphere by depleting the world's soils can be put back into the soil. All that is required is a change of agricultural practices. We have to move away from practices that destroy organic matter to practices that build-up the organic matter in the soil.

We know this can be done. Farmers around the world have been engaging in these very practices for generations. GRAIN research has shown that, if the right policies and incentives were in place worldwide, soil organic matter contents could be restored to pre-industrial agriculture levels within a period of 50 years – which is roughly the same time frame that industrial agriculture took to reduce it.[13]  The continuing use of these practices would allow the offset of between 24-30% of  current global annual GHG emissions[14].

The new scenario would require a radical change in approach from the current industrial agriculture model. It would focus on the use of techniques such as diversified cropping systems, better integration between crop and animal production, increased incorporation of trees and wild vegetation, and so on. Such an increase in diversity would, in turn, increase the production potential, and the incorporation of organic matter would progressively improve soil fertility, creating virtuous cycles of higher productivity and higher availability of organic matter. The capacity of soil to hold water would increase, which would mean that excessive rainfall would lead to fewer, less intense floods and droughts. Soil erosion would become less of a problem. Soil acidity and alkalinity would fall progressively, reducing or eliminating the toxicity that has become a major problem in tropical and arid soils. Additionally, increased soil biological activity would protect plants against pests and diseases. Each one of these effects implies higher productivity and hence more organic matter available to soils, thus making possible, as the years go by, higher targets for soil organic matter incorporation. More food would be produced in the process.

To be able to do it, we would need to build on the skills and experience of the world's small farmers, rather than undermining them and forcing them off their lands, as is now the case.

A global shift towards an agriculture that builds up organic matter in the soil would also put us on a path to removing some of the other major sources of GHGs from the food system. There are three other mutually reinforcing shifts that need to take place in the food system to address its overall contribution to climate change: The first is a shift to local markets and shorter circuits of food distribution, which will cut back on transportation and the need for packaging, processing and refrigeration. The second is a reintegration of crop and animal production, to cut back on transportation, the use of chemical fertilisers and the production of methane and nitrous oxide emissions generated by intensive meat and dairy operations. And the third is the stopping of land clearing and deforestation, which will require genuine agrarian reform and a reversal of the expansion of monoculture plantations for the production of agrofuels and animal feed.

If the world gets serious about putting these four shifts into action, it is quite possible that we can cut global GHG emissions in half within a few decades and, in the process, go a long way towards resolving the other crises affecting the planet, such as poverty and hunger.  There are no technical hurdles standing in the way-- the knowledge and skills are in the hands of the world's farmers and we can build on that. The only hurdles are political, and this is where we need to focus our  efforts.

[1] The IPCC says 10-12%, the OECD says 14% and the WRI says 14.9%.  See:
- IPCC, Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change. Chapter 8: Agriculture,
- Wilfrid Legg and Hsin Huang. OECD Trade and Agriculture Directorate, Climate change and agriculture,
- WRI, World GHG Emissions Flow Chart,
[2]    See: WRI, World GHG Emissions Flow Chart, And: IPCC. 2004. Climate Change 2001:  Working Group I: 3.4.2 Consequences of Land-use Change.
[3]    See FAO Advisory Committee on Paper and Wood Products – Forty ninth Session – Bakubung, South Africa, 10 June 2008; and M. Kanninen et al., "Do trees grow on Money? Forest Perspective 4, CIFOR, Jakarta, 2007.
[4] See: GRAIN, 'Global Agribusiness: two decades of plunder', in: Seedling, July 2010.
[5] see: Eurostat. From farm to fork - a statistical journey along the EU's food chain - Issue number 27/2011 and
[6]      FAO. Stephen Karekezi and Michael Lazarus,  Future energy requirements for Africa’s agriculture. Chapters 2, 3, and 4.
[7]     For EU, see: Viktoria BOLLA, Velina PENDOLOVSKA, Driving forces behind EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions over the decade 1999-2008. Statistics in focus 10/2011.
[8]     Tara Garnett and Tim Jackson, Food Climate Research Network, Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of SurreyFrost Bitten: an exploration of refrigeration dependence in the UK food chain and its implications for climate
[9]     S.A. Tassou, Y. Ge, A. Hadawey, D. Marriott. Energy consumption and conservation in food retailing. Applied Thermal Engineering 31 (2011) 147-156 AND Kumar Venkat. CleanMetrics Corp. The Climate Change Impact of US Food Waste
CleanMetrics Technical Brief. and Ioannis Bakas, Copenhagen Resource Institute (CRI). Food and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions.
[10] Tristram Stuart, “Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal”, Penguin, 2009,
[11] Jean Bogner, et. al.  Mitigation of global greenhouse gas emissions from waste: conclusions and strategies from the IPCC. Fourth Assessment Report. Working Group III (Mitigation)
[12] Figures used for calculations were:
a) an average loss of 4,5- 6 kg of SOM/m2 of arable land and 2-3 kg of SOM/m2 of agricultural  land under prairies and not cultivated
b) an average soil depth of 30 cm, with an average soil density of 1 gr/cm3
c) 5000 million ha of agricultural land worldwide; 1800 million ha of arable land, as stated by FAO
d) a ratio of 1,46 kg of CO2 for each kg of destroyed SOM
[13] See: 'Earth matters: tackling the climate crisis from the ground up'. In: Seedling October 2009.
[14] The conclusion is based on the assumption that organic matter incorporation would reach an annual global average rate of  3.5 to 5 tonnes per hectare of agricultural land. For more detailed calculations, see: GRAIN, 'Earth matters: tackling the climate crisis from the ground up'. In: Seedling October 2009, table 2.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Two Things

   First, this is an excellent article from the October 3rd edition of The Nation. The article is called The Food Movement: It's Power and Possibilities and was written by Frances Moore Lappe', author of the 1971  book, Diet For A Small Planet.

   A couple highlights from the article, which covers issues concerning farm workers, land, seed, culture, and economics:

"Fueling the consolidation were three Supreme Court rulings since 1980—including one in 2002, with an opinion written by former Monsanto attorney Clarence Thomas—making it possible to patent life forms, including seeds. And in 1992 the Food and Drug Administration released its policy on genetically modified organisms, claiming that 'the agency is not aware of any information showing that [GMO] foods…differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.'

"The government’s green light fueled the rapid spread of GMOs and monopolies—so now most US corn and soybeans are GMO, with genes patented largely by one company: Monsanto. The FDA position helped make GMOs’ spread so invisible that most Americans still don’t believe they’ve ever eaten them—even though the grocery industry says they could be in 75 percent of processed food.

"Even fewer Americans are aware that in 1999 attorney Steven Druker reported that in 40,000 pages of FDA files secured via a lawsuit, he found 'memorandum after memorandum contain[ing] warnings about the unique hazards of genetically engineered food,' including the possibility that they could contain 'unexpected toxins, carcinogens or allergens.'

"Yet at the same time, public education campaigns have succeeded in confining almost 80 percent of GMO planting to just three countries: the United States, Brazil and Argentina. In more than two dozen countries and in the European Union they’ve helped pass mandatory GMO labeling. Even China requires it."


"In all these ways and more, the global food movement challenges a failing frame: one that defines successful agriculture and the solution to hunger as better technologies increasing yields of specific crops. This is typically called 'industrial agriculture,' but a better description might be 'productivist,' because it fixates on production, or 'reductivist,' because it narrows our focus to a single element.

"Its near obsession with the yield of a monoculture is anti-ecological. It not only pollutes, diminishes and disrupts nature; it misses ecology’s first lesson: relationships. Productivism isolates agriculture from its relational context—from its culture.

"In 2008 a singular report helped crack the productivist frame. This report, 'The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development' (known simply as IAASTD), explained that solutions to poverty, hunger and the climate crisis require agriculture that promotes producers’ livelihoods, knowledge, resiliency, health and equitable gender relations, while enriching the natural environment and helping to balance the carbon cycle. Painstakingly developed over four years by 400 experts, the report has gained the support of more than fifty-nine governments, and even productivist strongholds like the World Bank."

   I recommend reading the article. It contains a lot of good information and some hope.

   Also, I came across this documentary, Back to Eden. There's a lot of Christian religion in it which is a topic for a different forum, but the premise of food production in harmony with nature is one I really get behind. The film is an hour forty six minutes and you can watch it right at the link above.

   There are exciting things to talk about regarding the garden, resolutions, and such. Right now I'm busy with harvest-canning-hunting season. Hopefully I will find time to post something soon!


Friday, September 9, 2011

What if Solar Energy Received The Same Subsidies as Fossil Fuels?

   I copied this directly from Roger Ebert's Journal on the Sun Times website. All credit goes to him and his sources, but I could not resist sharing this.

   It's just that good:

What if solar energy received the same subsidies as fossil fuels?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

GMO Labeling

   This article came out yesterday on Western Farm Press's website. It amazes me how it makes the argument of why we need genetically modified labeling and just how far gone our food system really is. I don't see a reasonable argument anywhere in the article that we shouldn't have labeling so we can know whether our food is natural or not. The idea that we need to do these things to feed starving people would have some weight if we were actually feeding starving people, but the fact is we are not. As I have said before, we have plenty of food and the means to transport it all over the world, the only thing we need to feed hungry people is the will to do it.

   The message I get from this article is exactly what I have been saying: We desperately need a food system that is more concerned with health and ecology than money. As long as money is the top priority, big-business will continue to manipulate our food supply at the expense of our heath, the health and well-being of farm animals, and the planet.

   Here's the article:

Time to take on anti-biotech crowd over GMO labeling
by Harry Cline

The California anti-biotech/anti-genetically modified/anti-science crowd is at it again.
This time around they are calling themselves “advocates for truth in food labeling” and are gathering signatures to get another infamous California voter initiative on the 2012 California electoral ballot. If passed, it would mandate that GMO foods be labeled with some kind of warning.

Bring it on.

It is about time this GMO labeling issue be tackled head-on so the public can be told the truth. Truth is, everything we eat today has been genetically modified, using either conventional plant and animal breeding or biotech technology.

For example, a team of scientists at the University of California has identified no less than 14 so-called genetically modified feedstuffs that are fed to dairy cattle. These are just the biotech products. Of course conventionally genetically modified feedstuff is also fed to milk-producing dairy cows.

These include Roundup Ready corn, Bt grain and silage corn as well as distillers grain; Roundup Ready soybeans, Roundup Ready cottonseed, Bt cottonseed, Roundup Ready alfalfa, Roundup Ready canola, BST used to increase milk production, genetically-engineered Renet used in 90 percent of commercial cheese production, Roundup Ready sugar beets, glufosinate-resistant corn grain and silage, glufosinate-resistant cotton, glufosinate-resistant canola and imidazalione-tolerant corn.

Not all dairy cows are fed this complete list, but enough to dare say if you buy milk in California, it will have to be labeled GMO under the hopefully ill-fated initiative. I suspect organic milk has some of the same ingredients since the overwhelming majority of corn, cotton and soybeans are biotech crops. If not, it would most certainly be conventionally genetically modified.

Of course a lot of those feeds are also fed to poultry and beef cattle.

And we could go on and on, right into the heart of the organic/anti biotech movement - the notorious Organic Trade Association - where one of its board members is a vice president and general manager of Smuckers Natural Foods. Smuckers uses high fructose corn syrup and other GMO ingredients in various jams and jellies. There are other food producing companies represented on the OTA board that also sell biotech foods.

The absurdity of this anti-biotech movement becomes more apparent each day as people realize that the world needs increasingly more food to head off starvation by millions. The most logical way to meet this challenge is with scientific advancement, including biotechnology.

The cost of food continues to go up with the growing scarcity of products as the world competes for food. The public is growing more aware of this each day.

It is time agriculture and food processors take on this anti-biotech crowd straight out with the facts and put a stop to this mandatory GMO labeling nonsense. It is time consumers are told the truth and put this anti-biotech initiative in the same category as the ludicrous anti-circumcision ban initiative a bunch of amazingly arrogant whackos in San Francisco tried to get on a city election ballot. A superior court recently tossed the initiative off the ballot, even though enough signatures were collected to put it on a San Francisco city election ballot. Even the ACLU supported its removal from the ballot because it violated constitutional and religious freedoms.

The mandatory GMO labeling proposal is going nowhere in Washington. Maybe it is time to bury it in California. It would be expensive to defeat. However, the time is right to stop this nonsense where it all started, in California.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Report: Eating Animals

   I just finished listening to Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer on audiobook (I checked out the audiobook version for a recent trip to Portland). In summary, would I recommend the book? Yes, absolutely. I think everyone should know the information contained in this book. Do I agree with Mr. Foer? No, not entirely. Despite the author's very many attempts to bully the reader into sharing his conclusions I do not.

   I agree with most of what the book has to say. The factory farming that takes place in the U.S. is horrific, wholly unsustainable, and needs to stop. The fact that we have a food system whose economic concerns are primary and whose ecological concerns are nonexistent is not just unhealthy, it's insane. I agree that meat is not a required part of a healthy diet and Americans tend to eat too much of it. So, why did I not come to the same conclusions as Jonathan Safran Foer?

   Let me first talk some about the book itself. I am interested to look through a copy of the book to see if the way it is presented on paper makes more sense. My experience listening to the audiobook was similar to watching Pulp Fiction the first time; I spent much of the book wondering where we were, where we were going, and trying to connect the dots. The book seems to bounce around a lot, at times trying to make a point, at other times seeming to try to present a variety of ideas and opinions so as to let the reader decide for themselves, and at times preaching from so high atop a vegan soapbox it is difficult to hear the message.

   The book includes this excerpt from rancher Bill Niman, but never adequately addresses it:

   "But what about the argument that we humans should choose not to eat meat, regardless of natural norms, because meat is inherently wasteful of resources? This claim is also flawed. Those figures assume that livestock is raised in intensive confinement facilities and fed grains and soy from fertilized crop fields. Such data is inapplicable to grazing animals kept entirely on pasture, like grass-fed cattle, goats, sheep, and deer.
   "The leading scientist investigating energy usage in food production has long been David Pimentel of Cornell University. Pimentel is not an advocate of vegetarianism. He even notes that 'all available evidence suggests that humans are omnivores.' He frequently writes of livestock's important role in world food production. For example, in his seminal work Food, Energy, and Society, he notes that livestock plays 'an important role… in providing food for humans.' He goes on to elaborate as follows: 'First, the livestock effectively convert forage growing in the marginal habitat into food suitable for humans. Second, the herds serve as stored food resources. Third, the cattle can be traded for… grain during years of inadequate rainfall and poor crop yields.'
   "Moreover, asserting that animal farming is inherently bad for the environment fails to comprehend national and world food production from a holistic perspective. Plowing and planting land for crops is inherently environmentally damaging. In fact, many ecosystems have evolved with grazing animals as integral components over tens of thousands of years. Grazing animals are the most ecologically sound way to maintain the integrity of those prairies and grasslands.
   "As Wendell Berry has eloquently explained in his writings, the most ecologically sound farms raise plants and animals together. They are modeled on natural ecosystems, with their continual and complex interplay of flora and fauna. Many (probably most) organic fruit and vegetable farmers depend on manure from livestock and poultry for fertilizer."

   I agree that we (Americans, and more recently, peoples of the developed world) should generally eat less meat and I agree that we should not support factory farming in any way. Note I did not say factory ranching or feedlot operations because farming covers more than animals. Mr. Foer fails to point out the industrial mono-cropping of fruits and vegetables as being a problem to the health of us and our planet. He does not talk about genetically modified produce that raises questions of if our fruits and vegetables are really vegan at all. He doesn't talk about pest and pesticide resistant crops, the chemicals that are sprayed on them, or the resistant "super" bugs and bacteria that are being created as a result. My point is that I believe the author's intent is true, but his focus may be a little off target. I fear the book maybe missed the bigger point in favor of an emotional response.

   In the end, Eating Animals provides a lot of really good information and, as I said, I would (and will) recommend it to anyone, but with a caveat. Our entire food system in this country -- not just the meat -- is broken. What we really need is an ecological food system, not an industrial one. On that, I believe the author and I would agree.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

State Dept. Aggressively Pushed Genetically-Modified Crops to Help Agribusiness Giants

AllGov - News - State Dept. Aggressively Pushed Genetically-Modified Crops to Help Agribusiness Giants

The latest release of government files from WikiLeaks shows that the State Department has repeatedly pushed foreign governments to approve genetically-engineered crops and promote the international business interests of corporations like Monsanto and DuPont.

U.S. officials have used “outreach programs” in Africa, Asia and South America, where Western biotech agriculture has not been established. In one cable, American diplomats sought funding from Washington to send U.S. biotech experts and trade industry representatives to target countries for meetings with local politicians and agricultural officials.
Several cables showed American diplomats have promoted biotech agriculture in Tunisia,South Africa and Mozambique, which confirms what Truthout previously reported on “front groups” with U.S. and corporate backing that are trying to introduce genetically-modified crops in developing African countries.

Previously released cables revealed that during the administration of George W. Bush, American diplomats had pressured advisors to the Pope to accept GM crops and that U.S. Ambassador to France Craig Stapleton pushed his staff to create a “retaliation list” of European Union members that opposed the spread of GM foods.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky

AllGov - News - State Dept. Aggressively Pushed Genetically-Modified Crops to Help Agribusiness Giants

Proving It Can Be Done

   A food system in harmony with nature? How crazy is this?


A Hollister dairyman uses a vast network of interlocking pastures to monitor what goes into the cows that make his organic dairy run.

Grass Fuels Organic Dairy
By Cindy Snyder - For the Times-News | Posted: Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dairyman Sean Mallett began planting pastures around his Nature’s Harmony Organic Dairy near Hollister in 2006. Grasses grown at the location play a vital role in the dairy’s functions.

It’s past 10 a.m. as cows ready to move to their new pasture mill impatiently through a delay in their routine.

But Sean Mallett, one of the owners of Nature’s Harmony Organic Dairy, wants to demonstrate how easy it is to move dairy cows from one paddock to another in an intensive grazing management system. First, he explains to a group of more than 50 visitors how he began organizing pastures and the barn at his dairy near Hollister five years ago.

It’s all part of a tour held last Thursday to show how strict grazing requirements for organic dairies are met, and how they benefit both producers and cattle. But the cows are only interested in their new pasture, and as Mallett finally lets loose a wire gate, about 500 of them move to a fresh paddock in less than three minutes.

“Even if we were a conventional dairy, I would still graze,” Mallett said. “I love what it does for the cows.”

The layout of Mallett’s dairy conforms to rules that at the time were pending for organic dairies but didn’t go into effect until this year.
Mallett — along with his stepfather and mother, John and Susan Reitsma — bought the former hog farm in 2005, intent to use it as a heifer feeding facility. But Mallett’s research showed the site had potential for organic dairy use.

In 2006, they began planting a pasture mix of alfalfa, perennial rye, fescue and orchard grass. Lately, white clover has been added to the mix. According to pasture rules for organic production, animals must graze pasture at least 120 days per year. Animals must also take in a minimum of 30 percent dry matter from grazing pasture.

“We knew in 2006 that the pasture rules that went into effect this year were coming,” Mallett said. “We wanted to exceed them.”

Because they had the luxury of starting the dairy from essentially bare ground, the owners located the milking barn as close to the plot’s middle as possible. Pastures were seeded near the barn, and gravel lanes allow cows easy pasture access.

Cows graze paddocks of 3 or 6 acres for between 12-24 hours before they’re moved to the next section. Each paddock is rested for about 30 days before it is grazed again.

A 35-acre feed yard is about a half mile from the milking barn, different from most conventional dairies that locate the feed yard closer. Mallett said he’s willing to spend a bit more to move feed than to force cows to walk longer distances.

“The farther the cows walk, the more energy they burn and the less milk they produce,” he said.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Bright Future for the Heartland

   All too often I find myself posting about the negative side of an issue, so here's a positive spin:

A Bright Future for the Heartland
Powering the Midwest Economy with Clean Energy

From the manufacturing centers and corn and soybean fields to the major finance hubs and lead­ing research universities, Midwest states have long served as an economic engine for the United States.

Yet the region is still struggling to fully recover from a recession that has made it difficult for families to pay bills and for businesses to prosper and sustain job growth.

The region’s unsustainable energy system exacerbates these economic pressures.

The Midwest power system is dominated by coal—largely imported from outside the region—which poses serious risks to public health and the environment, and leaves consumers vulnerable to volatile energy prices.

With abundant resources, revitalization is possible. 
The good news is that practical and affordable ways are available to help revitalize the Midwest economy and ensure a clean, safe, and reliable power supply.

The Midwest is home to some of the best renewable energy resources in the world.

The region is also endowed with a strong industrial base and leading research universities, where a tradition of hard work and innovation has long made the Midwest an economic engine for the entire nation.

Few areas of the world have this ideal mix of resources, industrial capacity, and knowledge base.

These advantages give the Midwest the tools to turn the challenges of a stalled economy and an unsustainable, polluting energy system into an opportunity for economic prosperity, job growth, and a healthy environment.

UCS’s new report, A Bright Future for the Heartland, shows how we can get there.

Clean energy: a wise investment for a bright future.
Energy efficiency technologies and renewable electricity resources, such as wind, bioenergy, and solar energy, offer a cost-effective and responsible path away from polluting fossil fuels toward an innovation-based twenty-first-century economy.

Investing in these solutions would deliver new jobs and other economic development benefits, save consumers money, diversify the region's energy mix, and cut heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming.

Boosting invest­ment in renewable energy and energy efficiency would also help keep the Midwest competitive in the growing global clean energy industry.

A roadmap for renewable energy and energy efficiency. 
In A Bright Future for the Heartland, UCS based its analysis on the renewable energy and energy efficiency goals of the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA)—a collaboration of 10 states working on key public policy issues.

These goals call for producing 30 percent of the Midwest's electricity supply from renewable energy by 2030, and for investing in energy efficiency technologies to reduce growth in power consumption at least 2 percent annually by 2015 and thereafter.

Two key solutions: renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards.
In 2009 an MGA advisory group released the Midwestern Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Roadmap (or Energy Roadmap), a set of policy recommendations for tran­sitioning to a clean energy economy (MGA 2009).

Our analysis focuses on two of the highest-priority recommendations in the Energy Roadmap, which we model as a renewable electricity standard (RES) and an energy efficiency resource standard (EERS). Our report shares what would happen if the entire Midwest region enacted the standards.

An RES is a flexible, market-based policy that requires electricity providers to gradu­ally increase the amount of renewable energy used to produce the power they supply.

An EERS similarly requires utilities to meet specific annual targets for reducing the use of electricity.
While the region will need other policies to overcome specific market barriers to clean energy, the RES and EERS have proven to be effective and popular tools for advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency, and can play a key role in ensuring that the Midwest meets the targets in the Energy Roadmap.

A bright future, together.
Midwest states can benefit from enacting these policies individually, but will benefit even more by acting together.

Many Midwest states have already taken important steps to promote clean energy, and there must be no retrenchment in those efforts.

Instead, each state can go further to strengthen or enact policies that at least match the Energy Roadmap’s clean energy targets, and to support local, regional, federal, and international efforts to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and cuts in carbon emissions.

With each state doing its part to promote renewable energy and ener­gy efficiency, the region will reap many vital benefits today while building a clean and sustainable energy economy for future generations.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hoh River Trail and Mercury in Fish

   I went backpacking up the Hoh River Trail earlier this week. We made it 14.8 miles up to Martin Creek -- quite a bit further than I had been previously. The weather was beautiful and, other than deciding to hike all the way out on the third day rather than stay one more night as originally planned (not the best decision), it was a near-perfect trip.

   There were an unusual number of people on the trail. While the Hoh River Trail is one of the more traveled trails in the park, this week there were even more hikers than usual. We stopped and spoke with one of the rangers at the Olympic Ranger Station along the trail and he commented on the high level of traffic. It's no surprise, the weather was still cold and wet right up until August. The ranger said that he didn't recommend climbers try to make the climb up Mt. Olympus (the end of the Hoh River Trail) this year as the snow still obscured the route. Even those familiar with the area were having difficulty staying to the "path".

   Another interesting thing I discovered at the Olympus Ranger Station was a sign posted with fishing information. At the bottom of the sign was a warning that fish from the Hoh River have been found to contain high levels of mercury. It got me thinking, how do fish in a river sourced solely from snow and ice in a National Park of over 900,000 acres become contaminated to the degree of needing a warning posted?

   I understand that pollution in the air travels into the park and that fish have the ability to swim beyond the borders of the park and then back upstream. But the park takes up much of the Olympic Peninsula and is surrounded by a very small population (probably the largest town around the park would be Port Angeles, with a population of around 19,000), an ocean, and the Puget Sound. It seems like it should be safely isolated. Granted, it is surrounded by National Forest areas where much industrial logging takes place, but the water is flowing out from the park, not into it.

   So I got online when I got home. From Wikipedia:

"Much of the mercury that eventually finds its way into fish originates with coal-burning power plants and chlorine production plants. The largest source of mercury contamination in the United States is coal-fueled power plant emissions. Chlorine chemical plants use mercury to extract chlorine from salt, which in many parts of the world is discharged as mercury compounds in waste water, though this process has been replaced for the most part by the more economically viable membrane cell process, which does not use mercury. Coal contains mercury as a natural contaminant. When it is fired for electricity generation, the mercury is released as smoke into the atmosphere. Most of this mercury pollution can be eliminated if pollution-control devices are installed."

   Here's my point, the Olympic National Park is one of the largest National Parks (the eighth largest, not counting Alaska's Parks) and it is situated in a relatively isolated corner of the U.S. It should be one of the cleanest places on earth and still, it isn't safe to eat the fish.

   What the hell are we doing?

Politics and Climate Change

   I wrote a while back in a post titled, It's Time To Shut Up And Do Something, that I believe climate change is the biggest issue we may ever face as a species.

   I didn't stop with my blog post. I appealed to my own representatives on the matter. Here is what Senator Maria Cantwell had to say.

   The language illustrates that, while we all agree climate change is a problem, we're not willing to make many concessions.

   As always, we are continuing to live off the backs of future generations because we are not willing to sacrifice.

   We suck.

[From Maria Cantwell : ]

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about climate change.  I appreciate hearing from you on what I believe is the preeminent environmental challenge facing our generation and sincerely regret the delayed response.

As you know, scientists have determined that the ongoing buildup of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, will cause the Earth's climate to warm, potentially leading to greater occurrences of droughts, floods, and other catastrophic natural disasters.  In Washington, climate change is expected to alter the region's historic water cycle, threatening drinking water supplies, wildlife and salmon habitat, and the availability of emissions free hydropower.  In fact, researchers project that the annual average temperature in the Pacific Northwest will rise about 2 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2020s and April 1 snowpack could decrease as much as 40% in Washington State by the 2040s.  Considering these potentially serious environmental and economic consequences, I believe that the United States must urgently address this matter, in partnership with the rest of the world.

One of my top priorities as a U.S. Senator has been to fight for legislation to promote the production of renewable energy, incentivize energy efficiency, develop clean technology industries, and protect our environment. While these energy measures provide critical tools necessary to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we also need federal legislation that establishes scientifically based emissions caps. Unfortunately, I have concerns about the cap-and-trade climate measures that have dominated Congressional debate to date because they unfairly penalize the Pacific Northwest's decades-old reliance on emissions free hydropower.  In addition, they do not recognize that our state's hydropower system is mature and won't be able to add much more capacity in coming years, thus any future electricity generation will likely be relatively more polluting.  Some legislative proposals would also effectively penalize Washington State for its years of aggressive energy efficiency measures, making any additional savings more costly for Washington State relative to other parts of the country. Finally, I have strong concerns that some cap-and-trade proposals could provide windfalls to historic polluters, or allow excessive speculation and manipulation of emission allocation trading markets.  For decades, Washingtonians have been on the cutting edge of clean energy solutions and energy efficiency, setting an example for the rest of the nation.  I have been committed to working with my colleagues to craft legislation that will cut our greenhouse gas emissions without punishing low carbon intensity states.

With that in mind, on December 11, 2009, I authored and introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine that will put a predictable price on carbon, reduce our nation's dangerous over-dependence on fossil fuels, and mitigate the threat of global warming.  This bill will accelerate our nation's urgently needed transition to a clean energy economy, helping ensure America's leadership in the largest market opportunity of the 21st century while protecting the vast majority of Americans from higher energy prices.

The Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal (CLEAR) Act (S. 2877) gradually limits the amount of fossil fuels entering the U.S. economy by requiring fossil fuel producers and importers to bid at an auction for permits to place their product into commerce. Out of the money raised at the auction, three-fourths goes directly back to every American, and one-fourth goes toward clean energy investment. Eventually, as the amount of carbon allowed into the market declines over time and spending increases in other greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts, the CLEAR Act will reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, and by over 80 percent before 2050.

Many Americans are rightfully concerned about rising energy bills during America's transition to a clean energy economy.  That's why the CLEAR Act is rooted in protecting consumers, with most of the monthly carbon auctions going straight to your pockets.  This monthly dividend, made out to each American on an equal per capita basis, ensures all but the wealthiest ten percent of Washingtonians (who use the most energy) do not lose money but instead come out ahead.  A typical family of four would receive tax-free monthly checks averaging $1,100 per year, or up to $21,000 between 2012 and 2030.

The remaining quarter of auction revenues are directed to a dedicated trust, the Clean Energy Reinvestment Trust (CERT) Fund, to accelerate the nation's urgently needed transition to a cleaner 21st century energy system and meet other climate change-related priorities. These priorities include clean energy R&D, low income weatherization assistance, reductions of greenhouse gases in the forestry and agricultural sectors, and needs-based, regionally-targeted assistance for communities and workers transitioning to a clean energy economy.

The CLEAR Act invests in America's future by positioning the United States as a global leader in clean energy expansion, creating jobs and recharging our economy at home.  With the right policies, millions of green jobs will be created, strengthening our economy, international competitiveness and nation's infrastructure.  The longer we wait to tackle energy independence and carbon pollution, the larger the economic and social costs of adapting to climate change will grow.  Our time of renewal is now, and I plan to continue pushing the most effective policies to create a cleaner, more diverse and secure 21st century energy system.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Are You An Adult Picky Eater, by Dr. Andrew Weil

Are You An Adult Picky Eater?
Dr. Andrew Weil

Everyone prefers some foods over others, but some adults take this tendency to an extreme. These people tend to prefer the kinds of bland food they may have enjoyed as children -- such as plain or buttered pasta, macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, French fries and grilled cheese sandwiches -- and to restrict their eating to just a few dishes.

This condition is not officially recognized as an eating disorder in the current edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the American Psychiatric Association's compendium of mental and emotional disorders. But it may be listed in the next one, under the title "selective eating disorder."

Researchers at Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh have established an online registry to learn more about the problem and determine how widespread it is. As I understand it, researchers haven't been able to say for certain whether extremely selective eating as an adult is an extension of childhood habits.

While we must wait for more data, I think it's likely that this will prove to be a largely American phenomenon tied to an unfortunate aspect of our food culture: nowhere else in the world is it so universally taken for granted that children should eat differently from adults. Our hypercommercialized society is the first -- and, I hope the last -- to create an entirely separate universe of child-specific foods and dishes. Most are overpriced, nutrient-poor assemblages of sugar, salt and fat, often garishly colored.

Pediatrician Alan Greene, M.D., points out that this perversion of whole foods for young people actually starts in infancy. His "White Out" campaign aims to stop the common practice of feeding white rice cereal to infants. As Dr. Greene puts it, this is essentially "processed white flour, and to a baby's metabolism, it's about the same as a spoonful of sugar."

These kinds of foods are just the opposite of what babies, children and adults need for optimum health. In fact, they are major drivers of the obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemics. Unfortunately, I see much evidence that some degree of adult "selective eating disorder" has become widespread. While eating only five or six kinds of food is unusual,  millions of adult Americans now prefer bland, highly processed, nutrient-deficient foods, and eat them exclusively or nearly so.

It does not have to be this way. Most of us -- especially those who grew up before the children's food revolution -- can remember foods we hated as kids that, through repeated trials, we learned to enjoy or even count among our favorites as adults. It seems probable to me that a steady diet of child-centric processed foods may lock in unhealthy preferences for life in some susceptible people.

Sadly, I've read that among members of an online support group for adult picky eaters, there has only been one report of semi-successful treatment. We need to know a lot more about this problem before we can treat it successfully. It is probably not entirely cultural. In some cases it may be a manifestation of obsessive-compulsive or autistic spectrum disorder, or a residual phobia stemming from abusive parental treatment.

Until we know more, I urge parents to reject the entire world of overprocessed babies' and children's food as much as they possibly can. For infants, I am a great fan of portable, inexpensive, hand-cranked food mills that allow parents to grind fresh, wholesome foods into nutrient-rich purées. As children grow older, the only sensible concessions to make for their meals are to make sure bites are small and tender enough for them to chew properly and to back away from overuse of spices, which can be overwhelming to children's palates.

It does kids no favors, and sets them up for a potential lifetime of poor health and social embarrassment, to excuse them from family meals of real food. Everyone benefits from healthy eating, but it is particularly crucial at the beginning of life. Providing your children with a variety of healthy foods -- and gently but persistently continuing to offer them exclusively during a child's "picky" phase -- are among a parent's most important obligations.