9/29/2010 2:15:52 PM
Utne Reader Editor in Chief David Schimke recently returned from the first ever Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania. Our sister publication Mother Earth News hosted the event, and itwas a resounding success. Folks interested in sustainable lifestyles were treated to a weekend filled with speakers, demonstrations, vendors, and more. Schimke reported on presentations by Green Festival Founder Kevin Danaher and Richard Schrader of the National Resources Defense Council. If you couldn’t make it out to this year’s event, check out these stories, plus plenty of photos, videos, and reports from those who attended the fair over at the Mother Earth News Fair blog.
Source: Mother Earth News
9/16/2010 9:26:00 AM
To most people, the word “organic” conjures up images of green pastures, open fields, and animals untarnished by their environment, pesticides, or growth hormones.
Until recently, those images were only half true, at least in regards to milk. While the USDA did require any milk labeled “organic” to come from cows that only consumed pesticide-free feed and were not injected with antibiotics or growth hormones, the law did not specify under what conditions the cows must be raised.
On the blog Simple, Good, and Tasty, Angelique Chao discusses how the ambiguous “access to pasture” clause from the original law did not necessarily jibe with what consumers expected of something touted as organic:
What did “access to pasture” really mean? Did it mean the cows had to be on pasture all the time or only sometimes? Did they have to graze the pasture or just mill around on it? And what was pasture, anyway? Any outdoor space, a grassy lawn, Astroturf, or what?
It turns out a lot of cows whose milk was being marketed as organic were being raised on feedlots: filthy, cramped areas of land with little to no grass to munch on. Chao observes that “this image of cows stacked in close confinement on dirt or mud lots didn’t exactly square with the consumer’s vision of the natural, peaceful life of the organic cow.”
Now, according to the USDA amendment which goes into full effect in June 2011, cows must get at least 30 percent of their food from pasture, which means no barren feed lots, and farmers must treat said pasture as they would any other crop. The cows must also graze at least 120 days per year.
Finally. Now my pristine mental image of happy, healthy cows can live on safely…at least until some inevitable, horrifying Big Ag scandal jolts it back to reality.
Source: Simple, Good, and Tasty
Image by Fresco Tours, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/15/2010 12:39:19 PM
As pull quotes go, this one from The Believer’s interview with anthropologist Robin Nagle is pretty golden: “Every single thing you see is future trash. Everything.” I’d have been even more delighted if Nagle had dispatched with that qualifying “future,” but then I’m a curmudgeon, not a scholar of rubbish in the strictest sense.
Nagle’s obviously got a rich stomping ground for her studies—if you’ve ever wandered Manhattan’s streets in the wee hours you’re familiar with that city’s Sisyphean relationship with garbage disposal—and she also more than established her bona fides by working a sanitation route in the Bronx. In this wide-ranging conversation with Alex Carp, Nagle discusses, the archaeology of household waste, the lives of sanitation workers, dirt, garbage flow, our cognitive issues with trash, the topography of landfills, and her own Sisyphean attempts to create a Museum of Sanitation in New York.
Nagle’s rambles are smart, funny, and full of lots of serious food for thought; for some reason this interview did more for my own garbage consciousness than a hundred earnest jackhammer pieces on recycling, righteous greenery, and carbon footprints.
I’m also seriously excited about the commercial possibilities for a line of stylish “Future Trash” t-shirts (I’m calling dibs right now).
Source: The Believer
9/8/2010 5:28:34 PM
The cover story of the early August edition of High Country News features John N. Maclean's expert storytelling and discerning analysis of the recent shift in perception of wildfire arson and those who commit it. In "The Fiery Touch," Maclean establishes a context to his story for those unfamiliar with the primarily Western phenomenon, writing that:
For many decades, deliberately set wildfires were treated more as a nuisance than as a major crime. Rural communities not only tolerated arson in their backyards; they often practiced it as a cultural prerogative, to stimulate new grass on grazing land or to create jobs on fire crews.
His narrative thread is the story of Raymond Lee Oyler, a 38-year-old automechanic accused of starting Southern California's 2006 Esperanza wildfire that killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters. Oyler's case marked the first time that a wildfire arsonist was convicted of first-degree murder (five counts), and furthermore, sentenced to death. Maclean's chilling retelling of the five deaths by fatal burning ("Flames overran the crew with a swiftness that left no time for more hose lays, burnouts or last words—except for one unintelligible radio transmission, the haunting cry of a never-identified young man in extreme distress") and poignant descriptions of family reactions in the courtroom lend humanity to what might otherwise be a dry issue of crime and the legal system.
The precedent set by the strict crackdown on Oyler has been reflected in subsequent trials of wildfire arsonists, in the hopes of deterring outcomes similar to that of the Esperanza fire:
The conviction of Raymond Oyler for murder would have been unthinkable a century or even a few decades ago. Swift justice will not bring any of the victims back to life, but it sends a new and unequivocal sign of community respect for those who suffer irretrievable loss while engaged in defense of lives and property. The Oyler case stands as a warning to every would-be fire starter: Tolerance for the torch has gone the way of the Old West.
Source: High Country News
Image by 96dpi, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/3/2010 2:59:00 PM
Guerrilla warfare just got a little bit easier. Guerrilla war, that is, against empty fields
and urban blight. Thanks to Greenaid, a landscape beautification project started by the
Commonstudio design firm, you can now purchase seedbombs from vintage gumball
machines. Seedbombs are little eco-grenades packed with seeds and compost—lob one
of them into a vacant lot, cram it into a crack in the sidewalk, or leave it in a neglected
public park, and in a few days watch for a green explosion of regionally tailored
wildflowers and grasses. Not only does Greenaid incrementally garnish the concrete
jungle with shoots, leaves, and petals, it also spares gumball machines from the
Listen to designers Daniel Phillips and Kim Karlsrud talk about grassroots activism, empowering
people with design, and public spaces in the video below.
For another instance of creative retrofitting, check out this project to convert legally obsolete cigarette vending machines into art dispensaries in Montreal.
Image courtesy of Commonstudio.
9/1/2010 12:53:37 PM
It is easy to write-off e-reader devices—such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Sony’s Reader—as wasteful gadgets further fueling our throwaway economy. E-readers are made from plastic, silicon, and heavy metals and will one day lie in non-biodegradable purgatory at the bottom of a landfill. Conventional wisdom holds that, at least, e-reader users aren’t contributing to society’s waste by buying bound books.
EcoGeek, ecstatically commenting on a carbon-impact study released by The Cleantech Group, enumerates some of the ethical perks of transitioning to digital books: “Authors are getting paid more, consumers are paying less, and as long as the devices replace the purchase of more than 22.5 new (not used) books in the lifetime of the device, it will be a positive force for the environment. This seems to be roughly one year’s use of the Kindle. Of course, if you’re replacing newspapers and magazines with your Kindle, chances are you'll go carbon negative faster than that.”
(Thanks, The Book Bench.)
Image by goXunuReviews, licensed under Creative Commons.
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