2/25/2010 1:26:47 PM
A young mother of two, tired of spending her evenings in the kitchen hammering out slow, “sustainable” recipes, recently embarked on an interesting experiment: She and her husband would try one month of quick-and-dirty dinners—“if it came frozen, wrapped in cellophane, in a plastic tub or with a pop top . . . we would buy it and eat it”—followed by one month of “the locavore’s dream,” complete with herb-growing, bean-soaking, and trash-composting.
“This would be a battle between the frozen chicken piccata with 38 ingredients and the BLT made from Prather Ranch bacon, hand-kneaded bread, farm-fresh veggies and home-blended mayonnaise,” Sierra Filucci explains in the Sacramento News & Review. “But more than that, it would be a test of what it means to be a mother—a mother who wants to feed her family and keep them healthy, but who also wants more from life than kneading dough and a sink full of dishes.”
Filucci has some refreshing thoughts about the shortcomings of the sustainable food movement (as personified by Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and others), specifically concerning gender and the division of household labor. “Maybe, I thought, this elevation of food to a holy plain is a noble movement that is simply ignorant of the real lives of modern working families,” she writes. “And without realizing it, this movement, one that’s so appealing to young progressives, is actually pushing for a more traditional family structure, gently nudging women back to a place our forebears fought so hard to escape: the kitchen.”
After a bland month immersed in the frozen milieu of Trader Joe’s, in which “food faded into the background” of the family’s lives, it was time for cooking month. And after the easy weeks of preparing food via microwave oven, it was clear to Filucci that there was only one way for the slow method to win out:
If the sustainable-food movement is to succeed—not just in drawing in the small segment of society that has the luxury of time, but in persuading modern working families to garden, buy local and cook from scratch—then it needs to promote fully the idea of shared labor. In his books and talks, Pollan weaves a romantic ideal of wholesomeness based on individual acts. He and his compatriots create a mythology around farming and cooking that seems achievable—as though you could reach it if you just stretched enough, tried hard enough and sacrificed enough. But who exactly is sacrificing? The reality is as unworkable today as it was in the 1950s, when women’s lives were limited to the kitchen and kids. And it’s still as unworkable as it was in the 1980s, when my mom tried to manage the house, the family and the job. It will remain unworkable now, unless all adults in a family participate, and participate fully.
For me, that means letting go of the notion that I can forever control everything that feeds my children’s precious little bodies. For my husband, that means acknowledging how tricky it is to plan meals and execute them with whiny children around. And for the slow-food movement, it means realizing that what they ask of communities and households—while worthy and noble—falls unequally at women’s feet.
Source: Sacramento News & Review (article originally appeared in the East Bay Express)
2/25/2010 12:51:58 PM
Extreme climbing has never been safe. Add a camera, and climbers’ lives may be even more at risk. Last year, two expert climbers were killed on China’s treacherous Mt. Edgar while filming a TV show for National Geographic. In an article for Sierra, Emmiett Berg questions the camera’s role in their deaths. He writes:
With video cameras the size of bar soap and an ever-growing number of outlets for clips of high-risk feats, any climber eyeing a first ascent must also consider the adventure's moviemaking potential. And when a climb turns fatal--whether through misfortune, misjudgment, or some combination thereof--those left behind inevitably wonder how much the camera was to blame.
, licensed under
2/24/2010 1:46:29 PM
After you've read The Dark Side of Dairies in our May-June 2010 issue, you're going to be glad to meet the Nolan family. From Grass to Cheese: The Nolan Family Farm is a documentary work in progress. This small sample from the feature-length film is charming and inspiring. The producers are raising the funds to finish the film on the D.I.Y. fundraising site Kickstarter and you can read all about it there.
Want to find a operation like the Nolan Family's Laurel Valley Creamery near you? We can help you find responsible, humane dairies.
Image courtesy of
Milk Products Media
2/22/2010 12:22:50 PM
It all started with rose petal wine. When Hokitika, New Zealand resident Claire Bryant received a positive reaction to her flowery brew, it occurred to her that all the wild foods of New Zealand's West Coast ought to be celebrated. And so the Wildfoods Festival was born. First held in 1990, the festival draws tens of thousands of visitors who sample culinary concoctions like wasp larvae ice cream and cucumber fish. For more about the festival and New Zealand's West Coast culture, check out wildfoods.co.nz.
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2/17/2010 2:17:38 PM
On an island in the Baltic Sea, Finland is building what it calls a permanent underground repository for spent nuclear fuel—but that depends on your definition of permanent. IEEE Spectrum writer Sandra Upson takes a trip to Olkiluoto Island to report on the construction of the Onkalo facility, bringing a science-literate but smartly skeptical view to her topic:
Posiva, the Finnish company building an underground repository here, says it knows how to imprison nuclear waste for 100,000 years. These multimillennial thinkers are confident that copper canisters of Scandinavian design, tucked into that bedrock, will isolate the waste in an underground cavern impervious to whatever the future brings: sinking permafrost, rising water, earthquakes, copper-eating microbes, or oblivious land developers in the year 25,000. If the Finnish government agrees—a decision is expected by 2012—this site will become the world’s first deep, permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel.
The plan has its doubters. “It’s deep hubris to think you can contain it,” Charles McCombie, executive director of the Switzerland-based Association for Regional and International Underground Storage, tells IEEE Spectrum.
Upson notes that the island’s residents welcomed the storage facility and the jobs it will bring, but also that
Their confidence that the project will be safe and well managed is unusual and not strongly supported by the historical record of government handling of other forms of high-level nuclear waste.
The United States, Upson points out, has finally canceled funding for a storage facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada (even as it hands out new nuclear plant loan guarantees), and Sweden is building a “less advanced” facility—leaving the Finnish site as a leader and a bellwether for the success of such repositiories worldwide. The $4.5 billion project, she writes,
will either demonstrate that the technical, social, and political challenges of nuclear waste disposal can be met in a democratic society, or it will scare other such countries away from the repository idea for decades to come.
Correction: This post was revised since it was first published to correct an error. The third through fifth paragraphs are new.
Source: IEEE Spectrum
2/10/2010 4:05:28 PM
Writing for Toronto’s Spacing, Joe Clement shares a genuine community-building super story: the organic transformation of the city street he grew up on into a robust gardening district. Clement himself got the ball rolling. As a young gardener who quickly “outgrew” his parents’ yard, he began asking neighbors if he could help them convert their front lawns into cultivated spaces. What happened over the next 20 years ought to inspire novice and pro gardeners alike—anyone planning on putting seeds in soil this spring:
Slowly but surely more and more neighbors began relinquishing their prized turfs in exchange for a garden, and that’s when something very interesting began to happen. The neighbors began interacting with each other beyond the perfunctory hello and goodbye while coming and leaving. The gardens were acting as social facilitators, bringing people out of their homes to tend to their yards and discuss gardening tips and strategies for expansion or plant sharing.
These conversations continued and expanded into broader social interactions. Soon neighbours were helping each other tear up their lawns, till the soil, and reconfigure their yards for both flower and produce production. Many of the not-yet-converted yards began sprouting carrots and corn and eggplant along with the foxgloves and dahlias.
Boulevard stripes were tilled and converted to gardens, making room for more vegetables. The neighbors are now tackling the backyards of homes rented to college students and converting them into productive gardens. Thanks to the dedicated work of several residents in particular, and the support of the rest, this street now produces enough organic produce to supply the Sorauren Farmers’ Market on a bimonthly basis.
Source: Spacing (article not available online)
Image by Mzelle Biscotte, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/5/2010 4:46:19 PM
Bats are not a popular creature, but in Mexico deeply rooted fears and myths about bats put the creatures in serious danger. Américas reports that the Bat Conservation Program (PCMM), a non-governmental organization in Mexico is trying to change all of that.
Much of the credit belongs to PCMM’s Education Coordinator, Laura Navarro, whose children’s books—including Marcelo the Bat—are used to show children that contrary to cultural lore, bats are not hanging in a cave somewhere dreaming of their next opportunity to taste human blood.
The program starts in the classroom and branches out to adults in the community. Information is delivered through lessons, games, and tours. PCMM’s founder Rodrigo Medellín is “Mexico’s foremost bat scientist” and he estimates some 200,000 people have been involved in the organizations programs. Here’s a great example of how things are changing:
When the legend of the chupacabras—a story about a creature that killed goats and sheep by sucking their blood—spread from Puerto Rico to Mexico, many caves were burned as people tried to protect themselves from the mythical beasts. At the same time, PCMM had launched its pilot program at one of the most important bat caves in Mexico, Cueva de la Boca, located near Monterrey in Northern Mexico. The legendary Cueva de la Boca used to be the home of one of the largest populations of Mexican free-tailed bats in the world, but due to habitat loss and human disturbance, the once great population of twenty million dropped to nearly one million.
During the chupacabras scare, some of the villagers who lived near Cueva de la Boca decided that the chupacabras was living in Mexico inside of the cave. Their fear spread throughout the community and a group set out to destroy the cave. “Picture a mob in a Frankenstein movie,” Medellín explains. At the entrance to the cave, however, the angry adults were stopped by the children in the community who had completed PCMM’s educational program. The children told the adults that Marcelo the bat lived in that cave and he was with his family and that bats help protect people. These passionate children, who had develop and emotional attachment to bats, were able to convince the adults not to kill the bat colony within.
Source: Américas (article not available online)
2/2/2010 12:48:00 PM
When you hear someone complaining about environmentalists who file lots of lawsuits, they’re talking about organizations like the Center for Biological Diversity, the national green group famous for going to court to protect threatened and endangered species—and very often winning. Among its higher-profile clients are spotted owls, polar bears, and Mexican gray wolves. High Country News has an illuminating interview with one of the center’s feisty founders, Kierán Suckling, who doesn’t dance around the subject of legal action as the equivalent of a shock-and-awe offensive:
High Country News: What role do lawsuits play in your strategy to list endangered species?
Kierán Suckling: They are one tool in a larger campaign, but we use lawsuits to help shift the balance of power from industry and government agencies, toward protecting endangered species. That plays out on many levels. At its simplest, by obtaining an injunction to shut down logging or prevent the filling of a dam, the power shifts to our hands. The Forest Service needs our agreement to get back to work, and we are in the position of being able to powerfully negotiate the terms of releasing the injunction.
New injunctions, new species listings and new bad press take a terrible toll on agency morale. When we stop the same timber sale three or four times running, the timber planners want to tear their hair out. They feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed—and they are. So they become much more willing to play by our rules and at least get something done. Psychological warfare is a very underappreciated aspect of environmental campaigning.
Source: High Country News (subscription required)
Image courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity.
2/1/2010 3:56:19 PM
Offices around the world struggle for good uses for all the computer paper they waste every day. One company has a solution: Turn it into toilet paper. A company called Oriental is marketing a machine called White Goat that shreds old office paper and converts it directly into ready-to-use toilet paper. Watch a video of it below:
(Thanks, Improbable Research.)
2/1/2010 12:49:14 PM
A Philadelphia-based designer is transforming broken umbrellas into cute pooch jackets and women’s hoods, reports Grid. Taryn Zychal, who sells her “Recycling Zychal” goods on Etsy.com, has seen a recent flurry of interest in her small business. Crafty environmentalists should take note: According to a 2007 WorldWatch article, people in the United States buy 33 million new umbrellas every year. Cheap models have all but killed the market for their repairable counterparts (and repair shops), which means every year millions of discarded umbrellas end up in landfills.
Sources: Grid (page 8 of digital magazine), WorldWatch (article not available online)
Image by D Sharon Pruitt, licensed under Creative Commons.
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