Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow in DC Does not Disprove "Global Warming"

So many newscasters have been cracking the joke lately that this record-breaking amount of snow getting dumped on the East Coast disproves Global Warming. Some of them are joking, some aren't-- either way, it deserves clarification.

First: Global Warming is no longer the term scientists are using, because it causes too much confusion. The new, official term is Climate Change.

Second: All this snow in DC actually helps to prove that "Global Warming" is happening.

1990-2000 was the warmest decade in the past thousand years. Climate change is a slow process, not a day-to-day occurrence; therefore, an unusually cold day in DC is not really a big deal, because it's not the big picture. But also, think of it this way: when you heat up a pot of water, the hotter it gets, the more quickly the water molecules move. A boiling pot bubbles out of control. The same thing happens when we heat up our climate: it gets more intensely active. Which means bigger snow storms, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc. The heat and damage we're inflicting upon our thin atmosphere is essentially super-charging the weather. And as everyone can see, that's not such a good thing for mankind.

The dominant force powering the Earth's cycles is heat, both from the sun and the Earth's core. Damage to the atmosphere reduces our very fragile shield from the sun. The more sun [heat] allowed in, the more powerful the Earth's cycles become. Natural disasters have gotten much more regular and intense in the past years-- plain and simple, there's no denying this.

But even if you don't believe in Climate Change, there's absolutely no reason to destroy our planet's protection from the rest of the non-life supporting universe. It's like climbing up on your roof every day and tearing a shingle out just so you can drive your SUV or eat food that's imported from thousands of miles away. It doesn't make sense. But since people don't feel directly connected to the damage that's occurring, it's easy to ignore... But at this rate, it looks like the weather will become pretty hard to ignore soon.

Here's an entertaining video from the Rachel Maddow show about why the snow on the East Coast does not disprove Global Warming. Featuring everybody's favorite, Bill Nye the Science Guy (yes, he IS alive).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Increased Exports & Big Ag Won't Feed the World

So there's a big myth circling around right now that in a couple decades, we won't be able to feed the world's population. The global population is expected to top 9 billion by 2050. There are currently 7 billion people living on Earth, and so many go hungry, that this assumption makes sense. But it's not true. We produce more than enough food today: we grow over 4,000 calories per person per day, or twice what we need.

We just don't distribute the food correctly. In 2008, we grew more food than ever before; more people were obese than ever before; food companies made more profit than ever before; and more people went hungry than ever before. If all the food we grow gets turned into money-yielding byproducts, like high fructose corn syrup, packaged cereals, and microwave dinners, of course it won't feed the world. And of course it won't keep the world healthy.

The solution to global hunger is not Big Ag, food exports, or prepackaged meals. According to over 400 of the world's leading scientists and naturalists (IAASTD), genetically modified crops and chemical agriculture have not actually been proven to increase crop yield. Experts from all over the world agree that the future of agriculture rests in local food production, not increased exports. Local food production, on the other hand, dramatically decreases energy use and pollution, while focusing on local necessities and therefore producing more of what is needed, in the ways needed. If farmers are taught how to work with their land and climate, instead of relying on expensive chemicals and GMOs, we will see a better solution to hunger.

But of course, the truth of local food keeps getting ignored in favor of giant corporate moneymaking opportunities. In Obama's State of the Union Address, he touted the need for America to produce more exports in order to support more jobs here in America. Well, yes, we should produce more of what we need here... but we should also keep it here. Big Ag companies want to turn global hunger into a market opportunity. Global hunger is a humanitarian issue, not an opportunity for another American moneymaking monopoly.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Oprah talks Real Food.

Normally, when Oprah talks food, it's about diets and fads. But this time? It's not about calories and carbs. Oprah talks real food with Michael Pollan.

As I've said before, you should watch Food, Inc. But if you haven't yet taken the time to, you can get a preview of what it's all about from the Oprah Show.

The episode is split in three parts, and all are embedded here, along with a brief article about the episode. Enjoy!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Vegetarians Don't all Care About Animals (really)

Vegetarians are all vegetarians because we think animals have feelings and souls, right?

Fellow veggies, you know what I'm talking about. The people who think we're overly-sensitive or just plain crazy animal-worshipers. The people who think we don't eat animals because we don't want to "hurt their feelings" or something. But this is such a misconception.

I became a vegetarian in gradual steps, and it wasn't until I was living a fully meat-less diet that I became an animal rights activist. For me, it all started in my junior high cafeteria when I bit into one fateful hamburger, so undercooked and thoroughly disgusting that I swore to never eat a burger again. It was kind of a joke, but things snowballed from there as I began to question why I ate any meat in the first place. My research showed me disgusting factory farms, horrifying abuse of both employees and animals, health hazards, and more unpalatable truths.

I love animals and always have, yes, but I am also, like most vegetarians, a naturalist: I do believe humans are naturally omnivores, and I do not challenge that. But I also believe in natural meat. Free-range cattle, chickens that get to see the light of day in their lives, turkeys that can actually walk and reproduce on their own, etc. The fact is, the meat people are eating today is nowhere near natural, unless you're lucky enough to raise your own or have access to organic meat. The stuff in the grocery stores is pumped full of antibiotics, raised in artificial conditions, and fattened up on an unnatural diet. You are what you eat, so a cow raised only on corn is... corn... and that just ain't right. Cows get plenty fat on a grass diet; that's what is so great about them. Plus, their meat is healthier, and, most would agree, tastier.

Another reason a lot of us don't eat meat is the environment. The way the majority of meat in the US is "farmed" today is unsustainable and destructive. Chemical run-off ends up in water supplies. Shipping meat over 1,000 miles to get it to consumers is just ridiculous. Huge factories are used to raise, slaughter, and package... And most Americans eat way more meat than they should, which just magnifies this whole problem.

People also have health reasons for abstaining from an omnivore's diet. Some people just do it to challenge their self-motivation. For many, it's actually about human rights: to safe, fair working conditions and healthy food. For others, it's about cutting off the big companies and supporting the little men. Whatever the reason, we are not all just in this because we think piggies should be hugged.

A lot of people say they could never go veggie, meat is just too tasty. A lot of people think vegetarians are sissies. But if meat is so tasty, and we're resisting it in order to stand up for our beliefs, we're not really the sissies, are we?

Monday, January 11, 2010

In Defense of Cows

"If these organic farm animals have such great lives, isn't the more humane thing to eat a cage-raised, industrially processed chicken? At least we'd be putting it out of its misery." -Jennie Yabroff.
When I read this, printed in Newsweek (01/11), I just stared at it with my head cocked to one side for a few seconds. Is she serious? Did she seriously write that? Why yes, yes she did. Yabroff also wrote, "While it's true that sustainably raised, grass-fed beef may be better for the consumer, it's hard to argue that it's ultimately better for the cow... No matter how 'lovingly' the cow was raised... he gave up that life to become dinner."

Miss Yabroff, we are all going to die, and we are all, in a way, going to end up as dinner. Cows get eaten by humans; humans get digested by the soil in which we're buried. Or we get consumed by fire, if so we choose. So, since cows die and apparently therefore deserve horrific lives, well then, we should lead horrible lives, too. So that we're all longing for the end.

This is dangerous thinking. This idea that a living thing should be abused because it is supposed to die is dangerously, dangerously misguided. If we really define life by death, then we've got a big, big problem.

No butts about it, Molly the cow supports organic farms.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Newsflash: Blowing Up Mountains, Harms Mountains.

Scientists recently, in the face of "differing opinions," made a profound discovery: Blowing up mountains, harms mountains.

This is Earth shattering stuff, people. I mean, wow. Almost as earth shattering as dragging giant industrial equipment into North America's oldest mountains, clear-cutting forests boasting rich biodiversity, blasting millions of tons off the tops of the mountains, dumping the waste into formerly pure streams, and then driving the coal out on enormous trucks.

Well, thankfully, some scientists have finally finished their research, "Mountaintop Mining Consequences," published in the journal, Science, and now they're ready to tell us this is bad. Really bad. Needs-to-stop-now-bad, they're saying. 'Cuz it's not just terrible for the environment and the communities of Appalachia, but also for human health. It's great that scientists are trying to persuade the government to put a halt to mountaintop removal... I don't take it for granite (pun intended, sorry). But it is a little silly that we rely on scientists in order to acknowledge the obvious...

Who would've thought that forcing people and animals from their homes, cutting down forests that help off-set carbon emissions, destroying entire ecosystems, and dumping toxins and chemicals into water supplies would be bad? Well, apparently the EPA doesn't see much wrong with this. Since, you know, they've got rules and regulations in place to... uh... hm.

Enough with the sarcasm. Let me tell you, seriously, about mountaintop removal. Whenever I bring this up, I get quite the shout out of people. They just don't believe me. Why would anyone believe the US government would support blasting the living daylights out of some lovely ecosystems? Well...

Mountaintop removal is a surface method of mining, wherein explosives are used to blast up to 400 vertical feet off the tops of mountains in order to reach the coal within. The extra rubble is then dumped into what they call "valley fills," or just land that was unfortunate enough to be chosen as a dumping ground. Any streams in the valley fills are filled with rubble.

This practice began in the 1960's, and petroleum crises since then have created further incentives for American-based fuel. Today, in West Virginia and Kentucky, over 2,000 metric tons of explosives are used per day for surface mining. By 2012, the EPA estimates that 2,200 sq. miles of Applachian forests will be cleared.

Apparently, it's fine to do this, because after coal companies have finished blasting everything to bits, excavating all the coal and chugging it out on vehicles (that ironically are probably not powered by coal), they cover the newly flattened landscape in some soil, a bit of grass seed here and there, some "mulch" (newspaper), and then let the former inhabitants have a go with it. Sometimes, they even plant a few trees. How thoughtful. Other times? The land is used for "economic development."

Federal courts have ruled, a total of four times, that the US Army Corps of Engineers has violated the Clean Water Act through MTR. Energy companies are allowed to continue mining, however, because in 2007 a judge ruled that "most of the substantial harm has already occurred." So they can have their cake, and eat it, too. The Bush administration helped a lot, by saying it was OK to place "mining waste" directly in headwater (source) waterways. So it's OK to place stuff like sulfur compounds, which are corrosive and a known health hazard, in people's drinking water. Thanks, Bush! I love health hazards in my drinking water, it makes me feel rugged.

Mountaintop removal may have eliminated some worker danger, but it has increased hazards for civilians, destroyed entire ecosystems, ruined families' homes and landscapes... Coal may help power North America, but at what cost? Clean coal is the biggest oxymoron. We know better. Coal is dirty. Coal is costing America too much.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2010: Will Real Food Start a Comeback?

Activism is, historically, a progressive, living, breathing part of society. It grows and evolves side-by-side with humanity. The masses reject one thing, and society moves forward. Then, with their newly, more open boundaries, they tackle the next issue. Americans fought to de-segregate society, allow interracial marriages, and now, we are fighting for gay marriage, for example. It's a chain reaction.

But where does food activism fit in for our society? It's not a natural progression of our activism, because it's actually a rejection of what we formerly considered "progress." This is something new. How often have we seen people really rise up against a nation's progress? There weren't mass movements against electricity, cars, microwaves, or laptops. And food has become a similar luxury item, pushed forward by factories. But suddenly people are making the connection between rising health problems and food's "progress," and they're rejecting this notion of advancement.

I can connect the dots for how I personally ended up here. I started off as an animal-rights activist when I became a vegetarian at twelve, stood up to my high school at fourteen by refusing to support the factory-farmed pigs they used for dissection, and eventually became the co-president of my school's Animal Protection Club. The environment slipped into my consciousness somewhere along the road, and I began my quest to become a more self-sufficient person. That, plus my love for cooking, is what drew me to organic farming. And, well, once you're pursuing organic farming, it's pretty hard not to become a food activist.

But for the rest of America, where does this fit in? How educated are most people about these issues? Most of my friends have no idea that the majority of their food isn't food, but "food-like substances." I myself wasn't fully aware of the situation until I read Michael Pollan's books. Movies like King Corn and Food, Inc also helped to inspire and inform me. But the majority of citizens have not yet even heard of many of the authors and films behind this movement.
In 2010, this may change. Check out The Green Fork's post, "2010: The Year Real Food Makes a Comeback?". We're seeing these issues mentioned far more often, people are buying tickets to films like Fresh and Food, Inc and copies of Pollan's books. The public is slowly becoming more informed. So maybe, just maybe, this new decade will mark a turning point for the proverbial American melting pot: instead of chemical flavors, perhaps we will begin to add real food, from real farms, nourished by real soil.

"Whatever lofty things you might accomplish today, you will do them only because you first ate something that grew out of dirt" -Barbara Kingsolver