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Archive for the 'Environment' Category

A Thanksgiving Post That Just Barely Involves Food

Thanksgiving came in a rush at our house this year and disappeared just as quickly. We didn’t host, so we simply took our made-from-scratch green bean casserole to the family shindig and brought back an empty dish and some full stomachs. The family event was, of course, very tasty. Mom’s pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin, a fruit salad tossed with cheese tortellini, roasted yams, creamy corn, a mountain of mashed potatoes with an ocean of gravy, and almost enough sweets for everyone to have their own personal pie. It was a delicious and dizzying affair. It also brought home the fact that although we’ve remained snow-free so far here, the season has turned.

As the leaves grow bare and brace themselves under the freezing temperatures of late fall, I tend to shift into a more introspective mood. I make tea, embrace books, listen to the calls of birds swooping southward.

For those of us who live in northern states, migration is  a concrete fact of the season, woven into our cognitive and emotional conception of autumn. Geese fly in sharp angles overhead, calling out in their harsh voices, over and over. Huge clusters of sparrows swoop over the now-empty grain fields. Gradually, many animals disappear to warmer climes. However, until my uncle Mike, an avid naturalist, took me to Indiana in 2004, migration was just a single thread running through the fall tapestry, much like the rust-colors of the landscape,  the acrid smoke of burning leaves, and the growing chill in the air. Six years ago, he took me to Jasper-Pulaski, Indiana, for the first time, and I caught a glimpse of the phenomenon on a completely new scale. Yesterday, I packed up some gear and brought the Unicyclist with me for a return pilgrimage.

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Food Miles and Efficiency: Mortal Enemies or Misunderstood Friends?

Okay, folks.  After a reprieve, it’s time to revisit Mercatus Policy Primer No 8:  “Yes, We have No Bananas: A Critique of the ‘Food Miles’ Perspective.”  I had promised a look at how local food movements take into account questions of efficiency, economic or otherwise.

Today, the focus is on the extent to which local food activists work with economic efficiency and plain old efficiency in general.  First, the study authors heartily support the idea that food should be produced where it is efficient to do so.  I absolutely agree.  They also argue that food should be eaten seasonally.  Authors Desrochers and Shimizu claim that “the importance of seasonality [...] is also easily forgotten by activists and consumers.”  If such is the case (and it may well be, though I’d certainly like some stats on that), it’s not a flaw in the local food movement, but rather a problem with its interpretation at the individual level.  The Eat Local Challenge website, a blog which describes itself as a group blog written by authors who are interested in the benefits of eating food grown and produced in their local foodshed, has several articles about the importance of eating seasonally.  Both Alice Waters and Michael Pollan, key figures in the local food movement, liberally pepper their interviews and writings with references to the importance of seasonal eating, as do other leaders such as Barbara Kingsolver and Gary Paul Nabhan. In short, the planning is sound, even if the execution could use some tweaking.

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Whales as Toxic Waste: What is the Warning Sign We’re Waiting For?

Despite the fact that environmental and animal compassion efforts to end commercial whaling have not been totally successful, whaling may finally be on the way out.  Why?

Whales are becoming toxic.

Recently, chief medical officers on the island of Faroe (located between Scotland and Iceland) told the Faroese that their traditional pilot whale hunts not might not be such a good idea, what with the mercury and DDT and PCBs being found in the meat.  Sadly, this advice came not as a precaution, but as a recommendation based on actual studies showing that the Faroese were suffering harm as result of these chemicals and heavy metals.  Studies on the Faroese have indicated that mercury in pregnant women, even at levels well within the “safe” zone established by the World Health Organization, had caused problems for their offspring including learning, memory, and attention deficits, as well as impaired immunity and high blood pressure.  Adults were dealing with higher rates of Parkinson’s disease, circulatory problems and possibly infertility.

This is not a problem isolated to pilot whales or to the island of Faroe.

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Save The Earth: Eat Less Meat

The New York Times printed an article yesterday about the impact of the livestock sector on greenhouse gas emissions.  I’ve talked about the environmental impact of meat being produced on an industrial scale before here at Simple Spoonful.  Check out the article and see what you think.  But remember–there is a great deal more to the health of the planet than just greenhouse gas emissions: soil, water, and air quality, for starters.

Also, if you haven’t already, stop by yesterday’s post to keep the comments coming about what you’d like to see featured here.  I’ve got some great input so far, and I’m looking forward to answering your questions.

Finally, stay tuned for the first installment in my response to the Mercatus study which attempts to dismiss the local food movement as a “marketing fad” and a “distraction from [...] real and serious issues.”  You can expect to see that sometime this weekend.  Happy Friday, all.

Thanks to Marion Nestle for the tip.

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Film Review: Silence of the Bees

Check those eyeballs, folks: Can you spot the bees in this brilliant stand of Wisconsin roadside goldenrod?

There’s more than one.  And more than two.  I came across this stand (bigger than what you can see here) while biking out in the boonies of Wisconsin late this summer.  Despite their tiny size, the bees were hard to miss; their drone was loud and unmistakable.  Apparently, bees love goldenrod.

And I love bees.  Welcome to the topic of today’s post.

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Last Flight of the Honeybee?

Last pre-written, on-the-road post.  Next time, I’ll let you know how the veggie Philly cheese steak and decadent NY cheesecake were as I headed back to Phoenix.  Until then, folks!

In May of 2008, British journalist and amateur beekeeper Alison Benjamin wrote a book with Brian McCallum, an apiarist-in-training. That book is A World Without Bees, and it examines the possible causes and consequences of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Remember CCD? It got quite a bit of press a year or two ago. Häagen Dazs even got involved trying to spread the word and find solutions.

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Vegetarianism 101: The Environment

In the past five years, there has been a reawakening of environmentalism. People are switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, thinking about where they set their thermostats, and trying to conserve gas. The number one reason driving these changes (besides the fact that they can help you save money) is the Dreaded Greenhouse Gas Bogeymen and how said bogeymen influence global warming.

Don’t get me wrong: I think global warming is an issue that we absolutely need to be responsible about. However, there’s a lot more to keeping earth healthy for us and other species than just greenhouse gases and global warming. I’m talking water quality, air quality, soil quality. I’m talking biodiversity on land and in the water. One thing Al Gore didn’t mention in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, is that reducing your meat consumption or becoming vegetarian will cause perhaps the single greatest impact in reducing stress on the planet.

What's the carbon footprint of the livestock industry?

What is the carbon footprint of the livestock industry?

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