"My heart is moved by all that I cannot save. So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world." ---Adrienne Rich
If you want to finally understand the link between factory farming and Americans' worsening health, plus know why our agricultural system is so dependent on oil and is so polluting, read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which is out in paperback in time for Christmas. After you read it you'll be perfectly prepped for the new documentary King Corn, which takes the veil off how our sick farm policies allow agribusiness to make big bucks selling us cheap corn, fatty, corn-fed beef, and processed foods. Finally you will be able to solve the mystery of why a Big Mac is cheaper than a salad, and maybe you, like millions of Americans, will begin to loudly question our farm policies.
"Americans have begun to ask why the farm bill is subsidizing
high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils at a time when rates of
diabetes and obesity among children are soaring, or why the farm bill
is underwriting factory farming (with subsidized grain) when feedlot
wastes are polluting the countryside and, all too often, the meat
supply. For the first time, the public health community has raised its
voice in support of overturning farm policies that subsidize precisely
the wrong kind of calories (added fat and added sugar), helping to make
Twinkies cheaper than carrots and Coca-Cola competitive with water.
Also for the first time, the international development community has
weighed in on the debate, arguing that subsidized American exports are
hobbling cotton farmers in Nigeria and corn farmers in Mexico." Michael Pollan, "Weed it and Reap" NYT 11-04-07
An article in today's New York Times about the boom in local distilleries made me think: what with the boom in organic cocktails we have seen, at least in the Chicago area, this sounds like the perfect way for GreenGeezer back-to-the-landers to make money while growing organic farm products.
"Seth Fox, once rejected by banks, now finds himself sought after by people looking for investment opportunities. His best seller, Most Wanted Vodka, is a hit at local liquor stores. His ultra-premium brand, Fox vodka, is served at some of the finest restaurants in his region."
Other distilleries (not organic -- yet --) mentioned in the article include:
As states see these small, local distilleries as a great source of tax income, they are starting to deregulate the liquor business to allow them to succeed. I say anything that helps small local entrepreneurs to live off the land while growing organic crops is a positive development.
We've lately heard a lot about how baby boomers aren't going to go placidly into old age, be herded into "retirement communities" or generally behave themselves. In my last posting I shared Paul Hawken's new book Blessed Unrest, and I urge everyone to go read it. It's a massively important and useful work that helps point the way out of the messes we're in, with seminal quotes from those who've gone before, and and impressive bibliography and appendix. Not to mention that Hawken has launched a website to keep the momentum going. Visit Wiser Earth and browse the directory of groups that are changing the world.
Where did Blessed Unrest get its name? Here's the first quote in the book, and when I read it I got goose bumps:
"There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.....You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open....[There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the other." --Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille, Dance to the Piper (NY: Da Capo Press, 1980)
A friend who attended the GreenBuild Conference in Chicago saw Paul Hawken speak and was all fired up. Hawken, who has been around the environmental movement for awhile and is the founder of Smith & Hawken, from which he retired years ago, as well as the writer of Natural Capitalism, has written a new book and it is just the book we need right now. A sweeping history of the environmental movement and a compelling analysis of where it's going, it describes what he learned during the past ten years of speaking engagements during which he met people from all types of groups who were passionately engaged in trying to heal the world.Best of all, he links all the threads of the environmental movement together, starting from the origins in the 19th century, to today's anti-globalists, indigenous peoples' movements, the politics of food , and the green building movement.
This week's Newsweek features an article about the rural battle over wind power. Farmers want windmills on their land because they can make money and because it can help the environment. Others want to protect the pristine nature of the land while consuming energy building second homes in the country. The latter have been dubbed "citiots" by Frank Masaino, a spokesman for a coalition seeking to promote wind energy. According to Sourcewatch Masaino worked until 2002 for the auto industry, trying to stop carbon emissions limits, so perhaps we can conclude his motives are not pure. However, we can't deny that he has a knack for turning a phrase.
Yesterday at the GreenBuild Conference in Chicago I stopped by the Shaw booth where I was captivated by the woman with the beakers. Turns out they were full of carpet bits that were being turned back into their original material, destined to be reconstituted into new carpet, true to the Cradle to Cradle principles. Cradle to Cradle demands that products be designed so that they can easily be recycled. Most products are "downcycled" or made into an inferior product, with a lot of pure waste as a byproduct, while true recycling would allow a product to be used, recycled, and used again, without any loss of material quality. In order to do this, however, the products need to be designed with that future in mind. Thanks to Jason for sharing his VIP passes with us so that we could attend the conference.
An article in Ecospace on natural burials brought to light something I've been thinking of for some time: the fact that cemeteries are unnecessarily polluting:
"Modern cemeteries separate the deceased from natural cycles by
embalming them in toxic chemicals, boxing them in steel caskets and
concrete burial vaults, and drenching the funeral grounds with
Not to mention their cost. A standard, non-luxurious burial ceremony today can cost $9500, whereas a plot in New York's Greensprings Natural Cemetery, for example, is only $500.