Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Being vocal for local

Here is another excellent reason for buying/eating locally grown grub.
"A town of 10,000 can spend roughly $15 million yearly on food products. If only 10 percent of the $15 million is purchased from local growers, $1.5 million would be kept in our local economy. This money could be re-spent to benefit other businesses, the school system, and city and county budgets. "
From the Living River Group, South Dakota Sierra Club http://southdakota.sierraclub.org/livingriver/default.htm

Local shmocal?

Reporting on a new study published in Environmental Science & Technology, The Organic Consumers Association asks the question, do food miles matter? The answer, not so much.
"In fact, eating less red meat and dairy can be a more effective way to lower an average U.S. household's food-related climate footprint than buying local food, says lead author Christopher Weber of Carnegie Mellon University.
Weber and colleague Scott Matthews, also of Carnegie Mellon, conducted a life-cycle assessment of greenhouse gases emitted during all stages of growing and transporting food consumed in the U.S. They found that transportation creates only 11% of the 8.1 metric tons (t) of greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) that an average U.S. household generates annually as a result of food consumption. The agricultural and industrial practices that go into growing and harvesting food are responsible for most (83%) of its greenhouse gas emissions.
For perspective, food accounts for 13% of every U.S. household's 60 t share of total U.S. emissions; this includes industrial and other emissions outside the home. By comparison, driving a car that gets 25 miles per gallon of gasoline for 12,000 miles per year (the U.S. average) produces about 4.4 t of CO2. Switching to a totally local diet is equivalent to driving about 1000 miles less per year, Weber says.
A relatively small dietary shift can accomplish about the same greenhouse gas reduction as eating locally, Weber adds. Replacing red meat and dairy with chicken, fish, or eggs for one day per week reduces emissions equal to 760 miles per year of driving. And switching to vegetables one day per week cuts the equivalent of driving 1160 miles per year." http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_11662.cfm

At the end of the article are some responses worth reading that reflect and expand on what I have been writing about for the last few posts.
It seems to me that even if the amount of ghg eliminated by buying local is small, hell, even if there were NO impact on emissions, it still makes sense to buy locally grown and produced food, clothing, furniture and whatever else you can. The more we have our own local farmers, woodworkers etc, the less we are dependent on them nasty old fossil fuels and big time capitalists.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Moving to Cattle Country

We are moving soon, moving to the middle of South Dakota where cattle is a BIG cash crop. For entertainment there is always....HUNTING!! How am I going to get along with my neighbors, one might ask. Here's how. I do not insist on my view being right for everyone and I work hard at understanding other points of view. That is why I spent hours reading the beef producers website. As a voice of the industry, I expected a skewed perspective, just as I don't go to PETA for objectivity. What I look for everywhere is honesty. Even in a biased presenter one can find honest information if there is honesty about the preconceptions from which the information is given. So, is meat a tasty source of nourishment? I sure think so. Do cattle farmers care about the environment? Some do very much, some do as it relates to their livelihood, and I am sure some could give two shits about clean air and water, especially if they don't live on or near the farm. I have lived around dairy farmers, beef and hog farmers for a lot of years. I have rented houses from them, called them friends and developed a lot of respect for the hard work they do. If you have read the last few posts you may have gathered that we are vegetarians. You would be wrong; we still eat fish. We also eat eggs, yogurt and cheese. So from a more rigorous perspective than my own, one could say those previous posts were pretty hypocritical. I don't think so, because I am now and have always been moving a couple steps forward then a step back. I move toward compassion, mercy, concern for justice and for the Earth. But I fall short by a mile or so. So how would I tell a person who is doing their best to support their family and provide product that a WHOLE bunch of people want that what they do is bad for the Earth? Well, I would if asked. I would put it as honestly and as straight forward as I know how. What I wouldn't do is condemn them for continuing to do it. We ARE omnivores after all. We are built to digest meat, and in moderate amounts, its pretty good for us. I do believe, however, that the time is past for large scale animal production and consumption, given the impact on the environment. Grazing cattle on the arid plains of the American west is not going to add appreciably to environmental degradation. After all, there were some 20,000,000 buffalo and goddess only knows how many antelope, mule deer and assorted other large ruminants fartin' and poopin' all over the West before we White folks got here. But we aren't talking about family farms and ranches here. There are approximately 97,000,000 cattle and calves, 61 000,000 pigs and 455,000,000 chickens in the US alone. That's 613,000,000 critters emitting ammonia, methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, dropping urine and feces by the tens of thousands of pounds every minute. Furthermore, most of them aren't out there grazing on the arid plains or on the Midwestern family farm :
CAFO's Milk Millions Off Taxpayer- Misguided federal farm policies have encouraged the growth of massive confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, by shifting billions of dollars in environmental, health and economic costs to taxpayers and communities, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). As a result, CAFOs now produce most of the nation's beef, pork, chicken, dairy and eggs,(emphasis mine) even though there are more sophisticated and efficient farms in operation. "CAFOs aren't the natural result of agricultural progress, nor are they the result of rational planning or market forces," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist in UCS's Food and Environment Program and author of the report. "CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations" enumerates the policies that have allowed CAFOs to dominate U.S. meat and dairy production..... The report also details how other federal policies give CAFOs hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to address their pollution problems, which stem from the manure generated by thousands, if not tens of thousands, of animals confined in a small area. "If CAFOs were forced to pay for the ripple effects of harm they have caused, they wouldn't be dominating the U.S. meat industry like they are today," said Margaret Mellon, director of UCS's Food and Environment Program.
And, to their credit, I got this off of another industry site, http://www.thepoultrysite.com/
So I reckon that is about what I would tell my cattle raising neighbor, if she asks.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Shall we say Mierda de Toro?

I was reading through the beefy site(see below http://www.beeffrompasturetoplate.org/) and they were sounding downright GREEN. Hmmm, I says to my self, they provide one citation to support the numbers given; they cite the EPA. Bush's EPA. The same EPA that refuses to act on the court ordered mandate to regulate emissions from autos, Hmmmm.
Who else do they have on the links.
Well, they have probably every university that has a school of agriculture, OK.
They have the USDA and its assorted departments, including the USDA marketing department. That's right, USDA has as a major part of its mission the selling of US raised food, that is, selling to you and me as in making it look as good as possible.
And then I looked at the NGO's they list as resources. Among them is Junk Science http://www.junkscience.com/a website devoted to countering all evidence of human(read 'industry') contribution to global warming. Another great resource listed is Center For Consumer Freedom http://www.consumerfreedom.com/ sponsored, as they say on the site, by 'hundreds of companies' all of whom have of course requested anonymity. Smart move on their part. This website is dedicated to such worthy causes as refuting the myth that obesity is caused by sugar and fats, fighting to keep nutritional information off menus and working to discredit PETA, The Humane Society, The Center for Science In The Public Interest and anyone else who stands in the way of maximizing profits from food and drink. The ever objective American Council On Science and Health http://www.acsh.org/, is pretty much devoted to denying problems of conflict of interest in industry supported research. How FOOLISH to think that your research might be influenced by the fact that your livelihood is dependent on the people who peddle the shit you are researching. The Animal Health Institute http://www.ahi.org/ wants to assure you that the antibiotics pumped into livestock by the gallon are nothing to worry your purty little heads about. So much for the ngo resources.
Next I looked at some of the "Sustainability Fun Facts" they provide.
One such 'fun fact' states, "In the Eastern and Central United States, wildlife is almost entirely dependent on ranch, farm and other private lands; so, ranchers play an important role in the survival of native species." and "Rangelands and pastures provide forage and habitat for numerous wildlife species"
But then they tell us, "About a billion acres, or 55 percent of the total land surface in the United States, is rangeland, pasture and forages."

Well, no shit the wildlife depend on rangeland and pasture, that's pretty well all they have, the rest is suburbs and Wal-Mart parking lots!

Then we read, "Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture decreased 4.2 percent from 2001 to 2006. " According to the EPA chart they refer to, methane from enteric fermentation(cow farts) decreased by 4.5% between 1990 and 2004. But methane from manure management incrreased by 26.4% during the same period for a net gain of about 22% in one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases around. They provide no support for the 2001-2006 decrease.
I don't think I got a lot of real objective info during my sojourn with the beef producers. But I honestly looked at what they had to say. I don't doubt that many beef farmers are good folks. I am sure that many farmers are working hard to keep from polluting water sources, hell they have to use the water too. But,all in all, given the info from far more objective sources, eating meat is bad for the environment. Sure, there are small operations that maybe raise their pigs, beefers, fowl from cradle to grave and do a good green job of it. But when you go down to the supermarket for those bargain cuts or to McDougle's for the happy dead cow patty, you are actively countering most or all of any other green efforts you have made. It is of course your choice to make, but it is not just a personal choice, it effects us all.

Da Udder Side

As I was looking for stuff to reinforce my preconceived ideas about eating meat I came across these guys http://www.beeffrompasturetoplate.org/
Sure they have vested commercial interests and all, but they aren't trying to pretend they dont't. As it says at the top of their home page, "Earth Day is a year-round celebration for America’s beef producers. Learn why environmental stewardship is essential to our livelihood and the future of the cattle industry." They say right up front that they are defending their livelihood and they have a version of the whole argument that I haven't ever really paid a lot of attention to so I figured, what the hell. Why not see what they have to say? Maybe, in spite of my godlike statement ,there is some argument in defense of meat production. Maybe it isn't the great satan of environmental destruction. They also have a bunch of links(all-beef sausage?) to support the beefy propaganda, er, position. I am going to do more reading and will give some summary later. In the mean time, I suggest you read Sharon's EXCELLENT post today. http://sharonastyk.com/

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Meat, meat the godawful truth

the more you eat it, the more you pollute. "
I was part of a discussion at Crunchy Chicken's a while back, and I was surprised at how emotional it got. I would have expected heat from the cattle and swine men's associations, but there is absolutely no possible argument that eating meat is deadly to our environment.
Chile Chews 'Cut The Crap' challenge this month is great. The best way to literally 'Cut the Crap' is to quit eating meat. According to the EPA, animal waste pollutes US water more than all other industrial waste COMBINED. According to PETA(not an unbiased source, I know) meat production creates 130 times more excrement than humans, about 87,000 pounds per second. The Union of Concerned Scientists states that 40,000 pounds of livestock shit is produced for every US family annually. Need some compost for the old family garden anybody?
John Robbins, author of The Food Revolution figures that by not eating a pound of California beef you would save more water than by not showering for a year. I have lifted these stats and quotes from a great article by John Motavalli over at E Magazine.
It isn't exactly news that in 2006 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that, "the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent –than transport."
" It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure. And it accounts for respectively 37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.
So drive a Prius or take a bus to work, great. But if you really want to make an impact on greenhouse gases, quit eating meat. Or at least cut down for cryin' out loud! Use meat as a flavoring for soup or stew, or eat it as a treat, once a week. But for Earth's sake, do something about it.
This hasn't even touched on the connection between meat consumption and world hunger, but that is in the two articles sited and I will be doing some summarizing later. But let me end by saying this, if you are serious about reversing global warming, water conservation, saving rain forests from destruction, you will take steps now to eliminate or reduce meat from your diet.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Check 'em out

So here's an interesting tool from The League of Conservation Voters http://www.lcv.org/scorecard/. I would call it the BS check, at least in the case of our representative, Fred Upton from the 6th District in Michigan. He is a senior member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality and likes to tout his environmentalist chops. The LCV rating tool gives him a 35% on voting for environmental issues. Big whoop.
In any event, my future representative, the ONLY ONE from South Dakota, is not too bad at 70%. This is just a congressional peeps reality checker and , goddess only knows, we need all of those we can get.

Arf Day!

Theda the black lab who lives with us says "Happy ARF Day"! I know that's too stupid cute to be allowed to be viewed but I couldn't he'p ma se'f.

So, for Earth Day I have been thinking a lot about the connection between hunger and living greenly. Of course there are connections that one barely need drift into thoughtland to see: eating less meat is the first that comes to mind. Raising meat has one hell of an impact on the environment and if you have doubts this is an amusing place to see some numbers and facts http://www.pbjcampaign.org/ . Of course raising less meat would free up a whole lotta grain/foodstuffs to feed people. Eating less meat would/could alleviate some of the clearing of rainforest for pasture and grain tillage. And one could go on. And I think I will, after spending more time composing my thoughts. If you have any thoughts on this connection, I would love to hear them.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Food First

Talk later. No, Food First -The Institute For Food And Development Policy is another great anti-hunger organization and they have an excellent article here http://www.foodfirst.org/en/node/2099

Is that Rye or Whole Wheat?

I have sent e-mails to my congress peoples and have printed the letters to send them paper copies. I think I will hand deliver the letter to my representative's local office. It is close so I can ride my bike on down. I don't know if he will care, but I will feel good about riding my bike and "Taking Action!!".
I also wrote to a lobbying organization that I have been active with in the past. I suggested this issue of speculation and profiteering in food (see last two posts and http://littlebloginthebigwoods.blogspot.com/) as an 'Offering of Letters' campaign. If you are not familiar with Bread For The World http://www.bread.org/ I urge you to check them out. If you are offended at anything that has a tinge of Christianity, you won't like them, but believe me, this is no 'fighting fundy' group. This is a pretty sophisticated lobbying organization with a simple central concept; utilize the bunches of people already involved with churches, colleges and other groups to involve more people in advocacy. The Offering of Letters is a way to educate and motivate people who want to help end hunger. They write letters, lots of them. And they help get legislation passed to alleviate hunger in the US and throughout the world. You can read about the campaigns stretching back 33 years on their website.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Purloined Letter

Not the Poe short story, a great sample letter I boosted(with permission) from dc at Greenpa's blog. So here ya go, revise, print sign and mail. Or e-mail if that's an option with your political peeps. Or do both. We also need to get a big organization on board with this and I'm thinking about Oxfam. Any other ideas?

Dear Senator/Representative [name]:I am writing to you today to express my concern about the recent food crisis faced by people in Haiti and many other parts of the developing world. The World Bank estimates world food prices have risen 80 percent over the last three years and that at least thirty-three countries face social unrest as a result. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned the growing global food crisis has reached emergency proportions. The Food and Agriculture Organization, a branch of the UN, has identified 36 “crisis” countries. The World Food Program (WFP), another UN agency, estimates that it will need $500 million on top of what donor nations have already pledged to fill what the WFP calls the global “food gap.”Several factors are responsible for this crisis, including high fuel prices (which have made transportation more expensive), rising demand in Asia, the use of farmland and crops for biofuels, a long drought in Australia and food speculation on the futures markets. Furthermore, policies of the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have exacerbated the problem. They have effectively tied the hands of developing nations behind their backs, binding them very firmly to an international food economy. Consequently, when the price of agricultural commodities goes up on world markets, these nations have extremely few options to deal with resulting food crises.I would like to ask you and other members of Congress to take the following steps to address the food crisis:1. Appropriate the $500 million needed to fill the immediate “food gap.”2. Stop subsidizing the production of corn ethanol and other food-based biofuels. Not only does growing corn and soybeans to produce ethanol and biodiesel contribute to world hunger, but it is an extremely inefficient way to make biofuels. Developing the technology to use algae and cellulose to produce biofuels would be a much better use of taxpayer dollars. While each acre of corn produces around 300 gallons of ethanol a year and an acre of soybeans around 60 gallons of biodiesel, each acre of algae theoretically can churn out more than 5,000 gallons of biofuel each year. Enough algae-derived biodiesel to replace all petroleum transportation fuels used in the U.S. could be grown in 15,000 square miles, or roughly 12.5 percent of the area of the Sonora desert. This production method would not require the use of farmland or threaten food crops. Cellulosic ethanol production, though it faces larger technology hurdles than algae-based fuel production, also holds great promise.3. Take steps to end food speculation on the futures markets. Speculative purchases have no other purpose than to make money for the speculators, who hold their contracts to drive up current prices with the intention not of selling the commodities on the real future market, but of unloading their holdings onto an artificially inflated market, at the expense of the ultimate consumer. It is astonishing in the present crisis situation that the CFTC and other government regulators have done little to control or banish this parasitical and antisocial practice. Speculative trading of food commodities should be banned at once, and rules that promote only legitimate trading that benefits farmers and consumers should be established.4. Take steps to reform the World Bank, WTO and IMF. These institutions have created destructive polices that have increased poverty and hunger in the developing world. As first steps to reforming them, all debts of impoverished countries to the IMF should be cancelled, and the IMF’s imposition of structural adjustment policies (SAPs) on these nations should end. SAPs have required poor nations to reduce spending on health, education and development, and to make debt repayment and other activities that benefit wealthy industrialized nations a priority. The World Bank, WTO and IMF have have forced poor countries to abandon their support for farmers and to abandon things like grain supplies and grain stores that would prevent hunger starvation in times of crisis. Immediate reforms are necessary to put an end to this situation.I appreciate your immediate consideration of these issues.Sincerely,[name]

Friday, April 18, 2008

Little Blog In The Big Woods: Hunger compilation - and ACTION

Little Blog In The Big Woods: Hunger compilation - and ACTION

Evil Bared

No this isn't about Stripper Zombies( I did watch the trailer for that though) it is about food speculators. Thanks to Greenpahttp://littlebloginthebigwoods.blogspot.com/ and his apoplectic post yesterday and follow-up today, I learned something more specifically about the wickedness of greed. Food speculation i.e. the buying of food contracts and holding them for profit is a growing problem in the current rise in food prices. In other words, people, men but mostly women and children will suffer horribly so that some people can earn huge profits. This is an oversimplification of course. The speculators and hedge fund vampires aren't causing droughts. They may well be contributing to higher oil prices and who knows what else that that have direct impact on the cost of food. And the reason we know so little about them is because they are so shady. No, not illegal but operating with almost no regulation and as far out of public scrutiny as they can go. Why? Because what they do is evil and I am not being melodramatic here. Well, a little. The results are certainly evil in the case of contributing to starvation and the price of medicines and, as I said, who knows what all.
Greenpa is calling for ACTION. Specifically, write your senators and representative. Demand that they initiate regulatory legislation to bring these vultures into line with civilized humanity. Don't get me started on who is excluded by that label. Sample letter and talking points will be next. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/04/16/opinion/edpfaff.php

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Farewell, sweet pumpkins

As I have written, we are moving to South Dakota soon to become houseparents for Lakota kids. Now South Dakota has its vistas and big skies. We will be on the Missouri River and it is a dramatic landscape. But it doesn't have Gene The Pumpkin Man. Here in Southwest Michigan, between Kalamazoo and where my dad used to live is a farmer, well probably a few farmers, but none like Gene Rhodes.http://www.michiganfarmbureau.com/farmnews/transform.php?xml=19981030/cover.xml The Pumpkin Man raises 50 acres of pumpkins and squash, all of which he and his family sell retail from their farm. When you drive by on M43 he grabs your attention with the big orange vintage Caddy, giant play pumpkin, orange doors on the house, orange stand and, in season, many tons of pumpkins on display. He also sells honey and colorful corn and stuff, but what a cool place. Its up on a sort of a hill so all this jumps out at you as you drive by and it is FUN! I'm pretty sure it isn't organic, but it sure is locally grown and it is FUN! Did I just say that? Gene wears a big orange cowboy hat and there are carts and wheelbarrows to get your stuff, in fact the picture on my header was taken at The Pumpkin Man's farm. Everytime I drive by it makes me smile, and that's a good thing. I'm going to miss The Pumpkin Man.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I think I will issue a challenge, "The laziest blogger challenge". I win!!!
I would say I have been busy packing, but that's such a lie. We are doing really well with Chile's 'Cut the Crap' challenge though. Well, let me give some background here. See the picture there? I am holding the only thing(of course my darling Claire is not a 'thing',it just worked better in the sentence)I couldn't get rid of in that wheelbarrow. Yes,yes, I love my beasties, hell, we bought a house just so we could take them with when we move! But really, I tried emigrating to Canada in 2002 and packed (nearly) everything I owned in three suitcases. I had one box with photos and papers stored at my dad's place. The only reason I needed three suitcases was because I have big feet and my shoes take up gobs of room. So you get the picture on my own tendencies to accumulate a hang on to stuff. Claire I should say, is making GREAT strides at cutting the crap. Sunday we had a shredding party with her old files full of check stubs, tax returns, receipts. She has tossed about half of her nostalgia trunk, put her cd's into wallet keepers and gotten rid of the plastic jewel cases. We are getting rid of books, old clothes, tchochkes. Just BOXES of stuff. And this is the second great purge in about a year, because we moved last year also(then moved back to this house-another story). I am proud of her and we will have so much less to tote!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Long time, no write

In case anybody checks this site out occasionally, I apologize for not updating for so long. We got the jobs!!!!!!!!!! We will be moving to South Dakota this spring, we are looking at mid May, and this is why. The school is so generous that they help pay rent for three months or provide an apartment at a local apartment complex with whom they have some sort of arrangement. Great! We could be out here in two weeks or less. Umm, no pets allowed. GRR. So we got a list of renters from the chamber of commerce, surprisingly long for a town of 2500. One one bedroom apartment available, no pets allowed! GRRRRR. We have two cats and a black lab. Part of the family, they are. So we dashed back to SD this past weekend, looked at two houses, put an offer on one, applied for and were approved for a loan and headed back to Kalamazoo. Whew! The offer was accepted and we should close and move in about five weeks. So we have been a tad occupied.
We did get to do some touristing. Visited the Corn Palace in Mitchell, which always sounded, well, corny. But it was pretty interesting and actually pretty impressive. We located a great looking museum and an archaological site/museum to visit when we return. We drove through part of the Lower Brule rez and saw our first prairie dog town. What a bunch of whistlers.
Looking on Earth911.org, I have not been able to find ANY recycling centers for ANYTHING in the entire state. Oh oh. I know it is one of the redder states in the USA, but NO recycling at all? We may have to save stuff up for our family visits. Also, we will have to cut down on plastics and glass. We rarely use anything in aluminum now. But how do you teach kids about recycling if you don't have any recycling centers? We will compost everything we can, even though our house has room for about two square feet of garden. We looked at one house with room for LOTS of garden, but it was 12 miles from work. The house we are buying is within two miles. Lots of new challenges in lowering the old carbon footprint, so I will focus more on that in the future. For right now, its on to packing! Anybody need some used furniture?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Drumroll Please!

We went to South Dakota last week to interview for jobs!! They flew us there even though I offered to drive. We bought our travel carbon offsets from Native Energy which has developed projects in South Dakota and has financed projects owned by Native Americans. Check 'em out, they really do offsets differently http://www.nativeenergy.com/pages/home/1.php
So, the interviews went very well, the campus was beautiful, the people and the kids were great and it is right on the Missouri River. I would love to work with Native American kids again and this would be a great opportunity. We shall see how it goes!

Less Power! Ugh, Ugh

To paraphrase Tim 'The Toolman' Taylor. The week before last I subscribed to our power company's(Consumers Energy) green power option called Green Generation. It is wind and methane power and even though our power use is pretty low, 22% of national average according to the Riot 4 Austerity numbers http://groups.yahoo.com/group/90PercentReduction/
I am happy to be able to leave coal and nuclear power behind. I also FINALLY got my clothesline up in the basement. You would think a 15 minute project would not take two months to get to would you? So with warmer weather coming(someday, please!) our electric usage will drop.