Saturday, January 31, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
"A genetically modified crop results from the laboratory insertion of a gene from one organism into the DNA sequence of another in order to confer an advantageous trait such as insect resistance, drought tolerance, or herbicide resistance. Today almost 90 percent of soy crops and 80 percent of corn crops in the United States sprout from genetically engineered seeds. Forty-five million acres of land worldwide contain genetically engineered crops. From the perspective of commercial agriculture, the technology has been seamlessly assimilated into traditional farming routines."
I don't know enough about this topic to decide where I stand on all of this but encourage you to learn alongside me and spend a few minutes with McWilliams' article.
Located on the first level of the Nordstrom garage off the Bestgate Road Main Entrance
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
"...The international trade in frog meat represents 200 million to 1 billion frogs eaten each year, or about 11,000 tons of frog meat...
...Trade alone may not be enough of a problem to drive frog species to extinction, but when added to other threats the frogs face, the combination may be enough tip some species over the edge..."
"...After all, there's no one policy for improving food in America. To bring real change, policymakers need to look at the system more holistically -- because everything, as foodies see it, is connected. Federal subsidies of grain and corn make it cheap to produce meat. Industrial meat production, which takes advantage of cheap feed, is responsible for about one-fifth of the world's greenhouse gases. Eating too much meat and too many processed foods made with corn products such as high fructose corn syrup has contributed to the sharp spike in obesity over the past 30 years..."
This passage ties food policy to energy, health care, industry, and so forth beyond agriculture but this kind of broad agenda thinking isn't getting us very far. We've got to narrow it down, take one issue and address it from start to finish. Black offers some suggestions, stemming from the successes or failures in movements like Slow Foods, Alice Waters' inaugural meals, and the "give a swordfish a break" campaign, my favorite being:
"...Advocate for radical change this year when Congress renews the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, which includes $21 billion annually for programs including school breakfast and lunch. Currently, cash-strapped schools are forced to rely on government surplus and sales of soda and other junk foods, a combination that results in millions of French fry-centric meals. Stricter school nutrition standards and increased funding for fruits and vegetables could change that. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicated in his confirmation hearing this month that he sees better nutrition as a tool for defeating childhood hunger..."
Monday, January 26, 2009
A study published in the American Journal of Physiology, Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology, and discussed in this Medical News Today article, claims that the human adenovirus Ad-37 is making people fat. Dr. L Whigham and team in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Wisconsin University infected and studied chickens.
I have two questions for Dr. L Whigham and friends:
1.) Did you have to use chickens?!?! You may as well just sell the virus to our nation's hungriest chicken processors!
2.) Have you considered that the root of obesity may be a spell? Just saying. Something to think about. (Fiona from the Shrek films... get it?)
I better go double check that my source didn't find this study on The Onion...
I got a scientific opinion about this obesity virus business from a trusted colleague and pioneer of science at Johns Hopkins University, Zachary Gerhart-Hines:
"I would agree with you [that this sounds pretty far-fetched]. There are many things we do in science for which we do not have mechanistic explanation. There is also the question of how direct or indirect is the action of the virus on the animals. One person in the article began to address this... If the virus makes the animals sedentary or tired etc then they may eat more and exercise less. However, if that was the case I would not consider that to prove that the virus makes you fat. That's like saying getting dumped makes you fat. If you get depressed from having been dumped and you eat a lot and stay inside and cry you will gain weight. I can tell you from what little I know about viruses they affect A LOT of cellular processes and it is difficult to tease out the direct actions from peripheral side effects."
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
- You can dry any fruit that is ripe, but not too ripe, and in good condition, including but not limited to apples, bananas, peaches, pears, apricots, berries, cherries, etc. For eco-sake, it's best to stick with fruits that are in season in your area.
- Wash, peel, pit, core and slice up your fruit unless it has skin (like blueberries and cherries). The thickness of your slices is up to you but try and keep pieces uniform for equal dry time.
- Steam those slices and berries for 3-5 minutes then place them on a parchment lined baking sheet with enough room so that the pieces don't touch. Turn the oven to about 125 degrees Fahrenheit and find something else to do around the house because it will take a few hours to dry the fruit and any attempts to speed up the process by turning up the heat will just result in dehydration.
- Let the now-dried fruit sit overnight. In the morning, pop it back in the oven for ten minutes at 175 degrees in order to destroy any possible insect eggs. Then let it cool for a bit and viola! Dried fruit without added sugar and preservatives.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Their calculations say that summertime cooling of more than one degree Celsius, about two degrees Fahrenheit, is achievable across central North America and parts of Europe and Asia simply by planting crop varieties with maximum solar reflectivity (albedo), a practice they call Leaf Albedo Bio-geoengineering.
From their findings, published in Current Biology:
Ultimately, genetic modification of plant leaf waxes or canopy structure could achieve greater temperature reductions, although better characterization of existing intraspecies variability is needed first.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Among those joining Gore for the organic fare at the National Portrait Gallery are the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Vote Solar Initiative, Youth for Environmental Sanity, and musicians Will.i.am and Maroon 5, whose performances are pro bono. Guests will clearly interpret the "conservation-as-lifestyle" message as they walk on a carpet made of recycled fibers and enjoy the strictly local menu.
Blocks away, the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Federation, and celebrity guests Robert Duvall, Ed Norton, among others, will be treated to the Boys Choir of Kenya and organic beer at the ICCF gala. Certain sponsorship of this gala is troubling (for example: Exxon Mobil) but caucus president David H. Barron sticks to the philosophy that governments and businesses are the most effective at protecting wildlife and the environment and told the NY Times, "We are not into symbolism. We are focused on a much bigger impact."
No matter how you slice it, the carbon footprint of all these guests traveling to and from the district to attend these balls is certainly significant but such is the case for any of the galas, green or not, so kudos to these two for highlighting the issues.
And Al, Mr. Barron, if you are reading this and looking to fill any extra seat at your tables, please note that I could hop on the MARC train and get down to the events with little to no enviro-impact. Just saying.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Biodynamics has gained exposure in recent years as viticulturists have incorporated its astrological principles of measure the quantity and quality of light reaching their vineyards based on phases and cycles of the sun, moon, stars and planets, in order to produce what some are hailing as their best wines yet. In recent decades, while growing numbers of winemakers adhere to this method and a growing number of consumers are willing to spend a few more bucks to reduce their carbon footprint, other industries are taking notice. The latest tapping into the benefits: cosmetics.
Of course, the beauty industry is no stranger to social responsibility. Historically, cosmetic companies were forced to examine issues surrounding animal testing and adapt to consumer concern. As companies discovered that developing and marketing natural, cruelty-free products meant that they could take a stand and increase their bottom line, the holistic approach really caught on.
The market for natural beauty products got a boost back in 2002 when the Center for Disease Control published some alarming statistics. Women aged 20 to 40 had the highest levels of a toxic endocrine disruptor, called phthalate, a chemical linked to disruptions in fetal development. The highest level of phthalate exposure comes from conventional beauty and personal care products, items that most women have come to rely on. Consumers were reminded that skin is the largest organ and 60-80% of products applied to it are absorbed into the body. The pressure to develop skincare products entirely free of the harmful chemical was on. They had to go organic. In fact, they had to go beyond organic.
Danny Seo, green lifestyle guru and author of the new Simply Green book series, sees an increasing consumer demand for biodynamic products in the beauty industry, because of the very direct connection between beauty products and the consumer’s health.
“You hear that a chemical in your deodorant can cause an endocrine disruption… and it’s just terrifying,” Seo explains. “Something you are putting on your body causes all this harm, so everyone is looking through the cosmetics database, fearful of this chemical and essentially searching for the most natural, almost food-quality, product and they are willing to pay the premium.”
Since 1985, Australian skincare company Jurlique, a true pioneer in the biodynamic beauty industry, has been going beyond organic. Currently the number-one selling skincare in Australia they are harnessing the natural power of ingredients grown on their certified Biodynamic and Organic farm, the products use only naturally derived, high-efficacy ingredients from herbs and flowers to renew and maintain healthy skin just like their eco-friendly farming practices do for the land. Jurlique is considered a “closed system” green corporation committed to sustainable business practices, setting an industry-wide example.
Their biodynamic beauty line does not contain artificial colors or fragrances, Parabens, Propylene Glycol, or Synthetic Emulsifiers found in conventional products. The bottom line, and buzz in the beauty scene, is that biodynamic products produce the sought after results of conventional harsh wrinkle-reducers while offering the piece of mind of organic and natural products. Not to mention, the eco-friendly philosophy of Jurlique inspires even the most skeptical buyer. Jurlique is not another company making a profit from the green scene - it’s a testament to sustainability. “
Methods in biodynamic farming aren’t some new innovative concepts,” said Eli Halliwell, former CEO of Jurlique.“It is reviving practices that were seemingly forgotten in the late 1800s when we learned that petroleum is a massive fertilizer booster and the agriculture industry shifted from diversity to monoculture. We literally forgot about tens of thousands of years of techniques. Rudolf Steiner, [a founder of biodynamics] recognized that.”
However some feel that consumers in the market for anti-aging products have shied away from some natural or organic skincare lines because many believe that nature cannot produce a technique that is as effective or powerful as certain chemicals, particularly Retinol. Australian skincare company, Jurlique, has created a Biodynamic Beauty line that has replicated, if not exceeded, the results of Retinol, called Totarol.
As biodynamic farming develops into a major business trend, cosmetics retailers and green-sceners are pleased to remind that the practice is hardly new and fairly obviously yields high quality results. Seo reminds, “It’s a smarter and more technological way of growing things. The soil is really the foundation of a quality crop. Rotating crops, re-adding the nutrients – it really just makes sense.”
The principles of biodynamics and its acceptance and incorporation into the beauty industry, makes a strong statement: Sustaining our surroundings and agricultural abilities without the use of fertilizers and chemicals is paramount in so many aspect of our lives. From what we put in our body as fuel to what we put onto our skin, awareness is key, so keep your eyes open for the most eco-friendly beauty products on the market – the ones cultivated on biodynamic farms.
(To purchase Jurlique products, visit their website and stay tuned for an upcoming post about a local skincare company that's also caught my attention.)
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
And whittle away we have done. Here in North America, according to apple historian Dan Bussey, some 16,000 apple varieties have been named and nurtured over the last four centuries. By 1904, however, the identities and sources of only 7,098 of those varieties could be discerned by a USDA scientist named W. H. Ragan, who devoted his career to tracking America’s extant apple diversity. Since then, some 6,121 apple varieties—86.2 percent of Ragan’s 1904 inventory—have been lost from nursery catalogs, farmers’ markets, and from the American table. In the southern U.S. alone, it is estimated that only 300 of some 1,600 varieties that once flourished in the region remain. The Fruit, Berry and Nut Inventory of the Seed Savers Exchange suggests that only a few hundred varieties of apples are currently available from commercial nurseries, and just 15 varieties account for 90 percent of all apples bought in grocery stores. Today, 129 of the remaining apple varieties have become rare enough to be boarded onto Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste in the hope that being labeled “endangered” might aid in their recovery"
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The study, published in the journal Epidemiology, compares autism diagnoses in California in 1990 to those reported in 2006. 3,000 new cases were reported in 2006, compared with 205 in 1990. In 1990, 6.2 of every 10,000 children born in the state were diagnosed with autism by the age of five, compared with 42.5 in 10,000 born in 2001 and apparently the numbers have continued to rise since then. This article in Scientific American does a fine job explaining the elimination of variables, or rather the improbability of certain causes such as vaccines, genetics or migration pattern.
I'd like to point out another environmental factor: According to the American Lung Association, Los Angeles, California has the worst air quality in the country thanks to the worst traffic congestion, worst air pollution (special shout out to China), and the largest active landfill in the U.S. Whether or not this is a factor in the rise of autism is beyond me of course but it seemed like a good time to mention it. Hopefully these researchers and their findings will remind the general population of our connectivity - of the link between what we consume, finance, use and discard and our health.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
"France felt some of the greatest impacts of the 2003 heat wave in Western Europe, seeing mean temperatures rise to 33 °C between June and August — nearly 4 °C higher than the country's average historical temperature for those months. Over this period, production of maize (corn) fell by 30%, fruit harvests declined by 25% and wheat harvests dropped by 21% compared with the year before. The study, published in Science, claims that by the end of the century, the temperatures experienced in the summer of 2003 will be the norm for the season in France."
Critics have pointed out these agricultural shortages could (or should) be attributed to drought, as opposed to extreme heat, and that with sufficient rainfall or irrigation, crop yields could potentially increase in other regions. Of course you then have to ask what causes droughts and so on and so forth...
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
8.) Garbanzo Beans
11.) Wild Rice
13.) Butternut Squash
14.) Whole Grain Pasta
18.) Low Fat Milk
19.) Pumpkin Seeds
Direct pollution from a blog is pretty small. WordPress reported transferring about 161,100 gigabytes of data in 2008 across 3,132,606 blogs - adding up to a small amount per blog per year: 51 megabytes of data to be exact. Bandwidth increases on blogs with lots of traffic, videos or large images but even the largest ones would only be responsible for a few hundred kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which according to the Lantern, "would put even one of those larger blogs somewhere in the range of the average household's microwave." Doesn't sound too bad to me, especially if the posts on the blog inspire readers to reduce their footprint elsewhere (hint, hint).
There is a camp saying that suggests information technology accounts for a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry. Sure if you add up all of the equipment necessary: rooms full of servers and network equipment, energy to keep those rooms cool, desktops, laptops, wireless routers, and so forth it does sound like an awful lot of energy - but you have to think about the alternative. Compare downloading an album to burning gas on your drive to the air conditioned or heated mall, purchasing the manufactured CD from a store to which it was shipped, the plastic in which it is packaged...
I'm not going to beat myself up too much about Just Saying's energy consumption, but I do predict a post about how I'm offsetting its footprint in the near future.