Thursday, May 28, 2009

Farmers Market Locator

Following in the footsteps of their fabulous Gardening Calendar, The Washington Post put up a great interactive pinpointing local farmers markets. You can even browse by day. How great is that?!

If you need another reason... stop drinking bottled water (and trade in any dangerous Nalgene bottles for their new and improved BPA-free ones), read this article reporting the findings of an impromptu study performed at the Harvard School of Public Health. Some highlights:

...Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who drank for a week from the clear plastic polycarbonate bottles increased concentrations of bisphenol A - or BPA - in their urine by 69 percent...

...Numerous animal studies in recent years suggest that low levels of BPA might cause developmental problems in fetuses and young children and other ill effects. The health effects on adults are not well understood although a recent large human study linked BPA concentrations in people's urine to an increased prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, and liver toxicity...

...Led by Jenny Carwile, a Harvard School of Public Health doctoral student, 77 Harvard students in the study drank all cold beverages from stainless steel bottles for a week to wash BPA out of their bodies and minimize exposure. Most BPA is flushed from people's bodies within a matter of hours. During that week, the students gave urine samples. Then the students were given two refillable polycarbonate bottles made with BPA to drink all cold beverages from for one week. Urine samples taken over that week showed the students' BPA levels spiked the second week to levels normally found in the general population. Because the students did nothing different in their schedules other than drink from the BPA bottles, the researchers determined their urine concentrations largely came from the bottles...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Windows to our souls?

Mark Menjivar for Good Magazine, put together this very cool picture show showcasing the contents of strangers’ refrigerators. It's a little voyeuristic but nonetheless, I suggest checking it out. Mine - leftover Chinese food, sparkling cider (clearly from Christmas) and all - is pictured above.

But of course!

Guess what, folks? I found out the secret to a healthy life in the unlikeliest of places: a Chinese restaurant (which, I should add, was pretty much the only place open last night). Check it out:

The fortune says: A good way to keep healthy is to eat more Chinese food.

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Soil Not Oil"

I've been meaning to link to this interview with Vandana Shiva, India’s leading environmental activist, in the Urbanite's April Green Issue for weeks now but I guess I let those peonies take precedent. The tension between traditional and industrial agriculture is a big and important issue that needs to be addressed globally. From the interview:

Q But if you have to feed more than a billion people, as farmers in India do, isn’t it impractical to hang on to traditional farming methods?

A Here, they want to connect all of India with superhighways, and 90 percent of the roads haven’t been built. They won’t be built because of the financial collapse. So this huge dream of a totally motorized world and tractorized agriculture is already failing in front of our eyes. It failed in Cuba under very tragic circumstances—under [the U.S.-imposed] trade embargo. But they rebuilt their agriculture [based on] principles that ancient cultures practiced. Now I don’t call that being locked into tradition. It’s highly innovative.I see fossil-fuel-free farming as a future of agriculture—not because of nostalgia, not because of romanticism, but because of a very hard-nosed realism. If your fertilizer prices have tripled in the past year, there is no way to carry on depending on chemical fertilizers. If your phosphate requirements in chemical agriculture are going to run out in the next twenty years, you’d better get ecological, organic sources. To depend on an agriculture that requires oil inputs at every step would be developing a system at this point that has no future.

Expect to see Shiva's book, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis on my list of recommendations once I pick it up and finish it.

peony perfection

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"double helping of global ramifications"

I highly recommend taking some time to read the special report on the global food crisis, The End of Plenty, written by Joel K Bourne Jr and with photographs by John Stanmeyer, in the June issue of Nat Geo. It offers a great perspective on the past, present and future of grain production, health ramifications of the increasing demand (like those discussed in a previous post about Punjabi farmers), population growth, and the desperate need for another green revolution.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Great HFCS Debate

Slate's Green Lantern has been examining the impacts of sugar and HFCS and most recently responded to a question regarding the environmental effects of each in May Cause Earth Decay. The bottom line is that while a large percentage of farm acreage in our country is devoted to corn, and "According to anti-corn crusader Michael Pollan, modern corn hybrids require more pesticides and more fertilizers than any other food crop [which] this not only requires major inputs of fossil fuels but also causes significant groundwater pollution," - only 5%-7% of America's total grain corn production ends up as corn sweetener. The largest percentage (around 50%) ends up as animal feed. No surprise there.

So as always, moderation is the key for any sweetener and according to the Lantern's research: sugar cane seems to be the most efficient producer although there is a heavy water usage component there.

Is it just me, or do most of my posts here on justsaying end in a suggestion to cut back on soda and red meat consumption? Hmmm... "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants"

Monday, May 18, 2009

Calories Per Dollar

During his talk on Saturday night, Michael Pollan addressed the frustrating reality that folks in lower income areas are often lured into Fast Food chains not only by those toys in the kids meals, but for their incredibly low cost "meal" deals. Specifically: The Dollar Menu.

Ever wonder how many calories you're getting for that dollar? Or avoiding the painful truth about how many calories you're getting for that dollar? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may want to check out what finance writer Mark Gimein and the TBM staff have put together:

"The overall winner in our survey in the Pizza Hut Meat Lover's Personal Pan Pizza, at a price of $4.09 for 890 calories. Prices do vary somewhat: We sighted the same pizza at $4.59 at a second Pizza Hut, which would put it only in the middle of the pack. A number of choices cluster below that in the 200-calories-per-dollar range. Burger King's (BKC) Double Whopper stands out. It's basically tied for the No. 2 spot with Taco Bell's Fiesta Taco Salad but clobbers it in the protein count with 53 grams.

The good old Big Mac is a mediocre deal. It's got what by contemporary standards is a very modest 540 calories, putting it closer to Subway's Footlong Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich from the chain's low-cal menu than to many other options. In fact, you can have a sit-down meal with IHOP's 1,535-calorie chicken fried steak and eggs and do about as well as with the Big Mac."

Full article and larger image can be found here.

Nature vs Nurture

This past weekend, along with lots of conversations about the environment we live in both socioeconomically and physically, I was fortunate to engage in a great conversation about the role of our environment in cancer cases as well as genetics and wouldn't you know... I serendipitously came across this article in Nat Geo. From the article:

Breathing in polluted air may wreak havoc on our DNA, reprogramming genes in as few as three days and causing increased rates of cancer and other diseases.

So says a new study that tracked DNA damage in 63 steel-foundry workers in Brescia, Italy, who, under their normal factory conditions, were exposed to particulate matter.

The same damage may occur in city dwellers exposed to normal air, the researchers say.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


First off, special thanks to Baltimore Greenworks, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Lorenz Inc, the Living Classrooms Foundation and the Enoch Pratt Library for hosting Michael Pollan at the Sustainable Speaker Series last night. It was incredible. Secondly, I have so much to blog about this upcoming week!!

MP discussed the sustainability of grass-finished beef (which is seasonal, by the way), progress but not perfection in school lunch programs, the absolutely awesome Slow Food movement, new urban agriculture projects underway nationwide, and most importantly, the need to continue this great momentum and collectively reform the American food system not just for moral and ethical reasons, but for the environment as well. Stay tuned to JustSaying this week for more on these topics, details about the event, the latest book, and some great MP quotes. And check 'em out on The Colbert Report (promoting In Defense of Food):

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michael Pollan
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

B'more welcomes MP!!

As you may suspect, I have known about Michael Pollan's upcoming lecture at the Enoch Pratt Library for weeks and have been, well, over the moon about it. Now, as the exciting day approaches, The Baltimore Sun's Rob Kasper has had the pleasure of a phone interview with Mr. Pollan and reports on the event and Pollan's research, writing, and advice like "meatless Monday's" in today's article found here. For those of you who have not already heard about the teachings of Michael Pollan over the course of meals with yours truly, here is an excerpt from Kasper's article highlighting some key Pollan principles:

A sampling of Michael Pollan's rules of how to eat well:

• Avoid food products that contain ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than five in number or include high-fructose corn syrup.

• Avoid products that make health claims.

• Shop in the peripheries of the supermarket, where the fresh food is; avoid the middle, where processed food resides.

• Eat meals, not snacks.

• Eat plants, especially leaves.

• Don't get your fuel from the same place as your car gets its gas.

• Eat slowly, at a table, and try not to eat alone.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bringin' Biking Back

I really wish I made that guy down the street a better offer on the adult tricycle. And moved to Europe with it. Because folks in Germany appear to be motivated not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but to improve their quality of life as they move towards "car free," sustainable communities (like Piney Orchard surely would have become if I had shelled out the extra $100 for those wheels). The NY Times reports:

Vauban, [Germany] home to 5,500 residents within a rectangular square mile, may be the most advanced experiment in low-car suburban life. But its basic precepts are being adopted around the world in attempts to make suburbs more compact and more accessible to public transportation, with less space for parking. In this new approach, stores are placed a walk away, on a main street, rather than in malls along some distant highway.

What the what?!

The NY Times reports on a new study pinpointing a counteractive effect antioxidants may have on the body’s natural defenses to oxidative damage, specifically among those who exercise for health.

The reason, they suggest, is that the reactive oxygen compounds, inevitable byproducts of exercise, are a natural trigger for both of these responses. The vitamins, by efficiently destroying the reactive oxygen, short-circuit the body’s natural response to exercise.

“If you exercise to promote health, you shouldn’t take large amounts of antioxidants,” Dr. Ristow said. A second message of the study, he said, “is that antioxidants in general cause certain effects that inhibit otherwise positive effects of exercise, dieting and other interventions.” The findings appear in this week’s issue of The
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The effect of vitamins on exercise and glucose metabolism “is really quite significant,” said Dr. C. Ronald Kahn of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, a co-author of the report. “If people are trying to exercise, this is blocking the effects of insulin on the metabolic response.”

So I guess I should cut back on my daily green tea consumption. Ugh. Just as Andrew Shao of the Council for Responsible Nutrition says, this is only one study but I'm certain I've heard similar claims before and will be following up on this as I learn more about it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Electronic Field Guides

The other night, I noticed that Apple found a way to tap into a market of, well, folks who I would consider to be less interested in technology and consumption: nature lovers and hikers. Here's the commercial showing the latest and greatest iPhone app:

Pretty cool, huh? You know what is even cooler? The hand-held electronic field guide that identifies tree species based on the shape of their leaves that a team of researchers financed by the National Science Foundation have been working on. The NY Times reports:

...The tree guide, and other electronic guides to nature being developed, may be used one day not only by backyard botanists, hikers and children on field trips, but also by scientists and volunteers to compile data for environmental inventories, or as part of species discovery... Computer applications that automatically identify, for example, a particular bird call or tree species or even an individual dolphin may prove popular with the public, said P. Bryan Heidorn, a program manager at the National Science Foundation who tried a prototype of the tree program at the Smithsonian... The computer tree guide is good at narrowing down and finding the right species near the top of the list of possibilities, he said. “Instead of flipping through a field guide with 1,000 images, you are given 5 or 10 choices,” he said. The right choice may be second instead of first sometimes, “but that doesn’t really matter,” he said. “You can always use the English language — a description of the bark, for instance — to do the final identification.”

Beautiful Bird Pics

DW and LM sent me these awesome pictures of their resident birds down in Arlington, VA. I understand that the cardinal showed up after he saw DW photographing the new bird family - wonder if he is related to my pal?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Save Molly!!!

Wednesday afternoon, a courageous cow defied all odds. She escaped a terrible fate at New York City slaughterhouse Musa Hala Inc, wandered around Queens for an hour, and eventually ended up in an Animal Care and Control center awaiting claim by, gulp, that wretched meatpacking plant or (fingers crossed) a farm sanctuary.

According to this MSNBC survey, nine out of ten agree that Molly's "bid for freedom should be rewarded."

Heroic dog

So this has little to nothing to do with the usual theme of the blog but I just have to share it because Hoagie is awesome.

New Farmers' Market: Downtown Baltimore

Every Tuesday between now and October, from 10:30am to 2:30pm, local farmers will be selling fresh veggies, fruit, cheese, eggs and more along the Paca Street sidewalk in the park in front of the University of Maryland Medical Center. This is great news for the many employees at the center and for residents in the area who otherwise would have to make the trip across town on Sunday mornings before noon. Bay & Environment blogger for The Baltimore Sun, Tim Wheeler, reports:

The medical center, University of Maryland Baltimore and the local community have teamed up to bring fresh, locally grown food to the workers, patients, visitors and residents of that busy corner of downtown. Local food reduces the energy and air pollution caused by long-distance transportation, according to advocates, and the types of food offered are generally pretty healthy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hopeful for more careful consideration...

The Economist's Green.view reports that a new bill calling for stricter controls and evaluations on wildlife imports, and banning non-native wildlife species that would harm the economy, the environment, human health or another animal species, is currently under consideration by Congress. The Non-Native Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act has come about in part due to research led by Katherine Smith at Brown University:

"Dr Smith found that almost 1.5 billion creatures had been imported by America between 2000 and 2006. Some 95% of these were aquatic creatures: fish and live corals for aquariums; and almost all were imported for commercial reasons, mostly as pets. They came from 190 countries and almost 70% originated in South-East Asia. The countries that sent the most animals were Indonesia, the Philippines, Fiji, Tonga, Thailand, Hong Kong and the Solomon Islands... American law states that each of these creatures must be precisely identified by its scientific name. However Dr Smith and her colleagues found that most contained insufficient information for them to be catalogued properly. Almost a third of shipments were described in general terms such as 'marine fish' or 'live invertebrates'. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is supposed to keep proper records at American ports of entry. "

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Plant Database

Check out this awesometastical plant database that The Baltimore Sun now offers. Go to the advanced search. Very cool.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Weeds = Superfood?

I believe I have mentioned that weeds are naturally high in antioxidants due to the simple fact that they flourish without human aid, but I will admit that tossing weeds into the salad mix hasn't been a top priority for me until now. Baltimore Sun reporter, Julie Deardorff, points to Dandelion greens as an excellent source of vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium, in this great interactive on the newspaper's website. Talk about turning a negative into a positive, huh? Dandelions taking over your lawn? As you yank 'em, pull off those leaves!


Adrian Higgins, for The Washington Post, wrote a great article about tulips and the craze that gripped Holland in the 17th century - a topic near and dear to my heart since Michael Pollan dedicated a quarter of The Botany of Desire to it. Higgins, however, initially approaches the mania not so much from a co-evolutionary standpoint, but rather in regards to the "lust for illusory wealth" and the parallels to our current economic crisis. I love what she wrote here:

Those who had borrowed to invest in shares found themselves ruined. Here's another interesting parallel between tulipmania and our current economic mess: The most coveted bulbs had bicolored petals whose patterns danced like flames or feathers. Scientists later discovered that this was due to a virus transmitted by aphids. Talk about toxic assets.

She also reports on her favorite varieties found in the bulb fields of Brent and Becky Heath, down in Gloucester, VA. Some of her faves include: Brown Sugar, World Peace, Gavota, Banja Luca, Silverstream, Juan, Cynthia, and Lady Jane.

If you are interested in learning a little more about Tulipmania, here are a few other resources:

Bulb Bubble Trouble by Daniel Gross for Slate

When the Tulip Bubble Burst, a BusinessWeek review of Mike Dash's Tulipomania

Sunday, May 3, 2009

shocking visualization

Check out this website, Sugar Stacks, that shows how sugars in foods literally stack up. I wish peanut MnMs were on there. I even looked under "breakfast foods."


I keep meaning to post about the territorial Northern Cardinal who claims the bird feeder as well as my gas guzzler. Here he is near some of the windows he crashes into an attempt to scare off the other cardinal, which is of course his own reflection. He's kinda cute, huh?