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Susie Cagle's Posts


Faux meats get a boost from horsemeat scandal

Thanks, horsemeat! Faux meats in the U.K. are seeing a big uptick in popularity after the recent spate of Euro meat contamination.

The Guardian reports:

Quorn, the UK's biggest vegetarian ready meal brand, said it had seen sales growth more than double in the second half of February as shoppers snapped up its burgers, mince and sausages made from a form of fungus. The company is having to increase the number of shifts at its fermenting plant to cope with demand.

Other specialist brands have also enjoyed a surge in sales since January when regulators found horsemeat in ready-made burgers sold in supermarkets. [British supermarket chain] Asda said sales of meat-free foods had been booming in recent weeks as the scandal has widened to include well known brands including Findus and Birds Eye.

Fry's, a South African brand which sells frozen vegetarian sausages and pies mainly to health foods shops such as Holland & Barrett, said sales had risen 30% since the beginning of February, three times the pace of its growth over the last few years.

Quorn's burgers are entirely horse-free.
The ingredients of Quorn burgers don't include horse.

At the same time, sales of frozen meat burgers tumbled. From The Huffington Post:


WA state legislator doesn’t understand CO2, transportation, science

Ed Orcutt
Ed Orcutt is confused.

Ed Orcutt is a Republican state representative in Washington, and he appears to be confused. As a member of the House Transportation Committee, Orcutt had a somewhat testy email exchange recently with a bike shop owner about a proposed bike fee. Reuters reports:

"You claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike," Orcutt wrote to Dale Carlson, the owner of three bicycle shops in the Tacoma and Olympia areas who voiced concern that a proposed $25 fee on bicycle sales of $500 or more could hurt his business.

"But if I am not mistaken, a cyclists has an increased heart rate and respiration ... Since CO2 is deemed a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclist [sic] are actually polluting when they ride," Orcutt wrote late last month.

Carlson thought Orcutt "was being sarcastic or something." That wasn't the case, but Orcutt soon felt compelled to apologize.

Read more: Cities, Politics


Proposed CA law: Bike at your own risk

urban-cyclist-carouselBusted streets + incompetent city employees + you + bike = potential lawsuit! At least for now.

In most cities, if you injure yourself because of a neglected or damaged sidewalk or street, you can file a "trip and fall" lawsuit and claim damages. But California may soon change that for bicycle riders.

Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, (R-Dana Point) has proposed a law that would provide total immunity for governments and their employees in the event of a bike accident caused by faulty city infrastructure. Public agencies already have "design immunity" under state law (i.e. you can't sue because of the poor layout of a road or bike lane), but this bill would broadly extend that immunity:

Read more: Cities


Public surprisingly OK with government policies that push healthy eating

Eat this!

Subsidize green veggies, slaughter big sodas, and steal candy from babies? These kinds of government policies intended to promote healthy eating are A-OK with most of the American public, it turns out. A new poll from Harvard's School of Public Health found that people "were surprisingly positive about these new public health laws," as NPR reports, with big percentages in favor of encouraging exercise, making fruits and veg affordable, pushing for healthier restaurant choices, and banning use of food stamps to buy unhealthy foods.

From NPR's The Salt blog:

"We clearly saw that the more coercion was involved, the more people you lost," says Michelle Mello, a professor of law and public health at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was a co-author of the study. It was published in the March Health Affairs.

The researchers were surprised to find that people with health problems like obesity and diabetes didn't object to new laws targeting them.

"We thought that people who felt like targets would be much less likely to support them," says Stephanie Morain, a graduate student in ethics who co-authored the study. "That wasn't true." ...

Read more: Food


Is McDonald’s coffee really going greener?


Over the past few years, McDonald's has grown its subsidiary coffeehouse brand McCafe like a juiced-up Starbucks -- there are now 1,300 Mc-coffee shops worldwide. That's a lot of coffee! And now the company says it wants that coffee to be greener.

Over the next five years, McDonald's plans to invest $6.5 million to help about 13,000 Guatamalan coffee growers produce fancier, more sustainable beans, to be used in a proprietary arabica blend. The company says it aims "to promote the environmental, ethical and economic long-term sustainability of coffee supplies." From Bloomberg:

“Investing in both certification and sustainable agriculture training addresses the immediate need to assist farmers today, expands capacity for greater sustainable coffee production in the future and helps assure our customers we will continue to provide the taste profile they have grown to love and expect from McDonald’s,” Susan Forsell, the vice president of sustainability, said in the statement.


New York subway riders swipe back at fare hikes

Today, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority boosted subway and bus fares by another quarter, making it $2.50 per ride in the Big Apple (which is about equivalent to four actual apples).

In response to the hikes, some citizens are taking matters and MetroCards into their own hands with a "Swipe Back!" campaign. It's simple enough: 18 minutes after you use your unlimited card (which now costs $30 per week or $112 per month), you can swipe someone else in for a ride. Says Swipe Back!: "Since you’re giving the swipe away, not selling it, this is perfectly legal."

A less legal form of swiping back against fare hikes.
agent j loves nyc
A less legal form of swiping back against fare hikes.

The MTA tells Gothamist that fares are up to compensate for "costs for employee healthcare, pension contributions, mandatory paratransit service, energy and other costs out of our control." No mention of a shit-ton of debt service. Here's journalist and activist Jesse Myerson to explain how those debts work:

Read more: Cities


Climate change is melting open the North Pole

It's time once again for your regular update on the melting ice in the Arctic, where temperatures are rising faster than anywhere else on earth!

By 2040, the melt will be so intense that some ships could be able to navigate straight across the North Pole during the summer months, according to new research out of UCLA, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It's bad news for people who care about a livable climate, but good news for shipping companies that want to spread cheap goods far and wide.

Ponds on the surface of Arctic ice. (Photo by NASA.)
Ponds on the surface of Arctic ice.


Currently, the Northwest Passage is inaccessible for normal vessels, and has only been transited a handful of times by reinforced ice-breaking ships. Under both of the [climate] scenarios [the researchers studied], though, it becomes navigable to Polar Class 6 ships every summer. At times, it could even be open to unreinforced vessels as well—the study shows that, when multiple simulations were run in both medium-low and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, open sailing was possible for 50 to 60 percent of the years studied.


Check out these rad women cyclists gearing up to take the lane

There's a lot to feel terrible about lately. I mean, you saw that Keystone pipeline environmental impact report from the State Department, right? You forgot? Oh no, don't cry! Look, here's something to feel good about: The National Women's Bicycling Forum in Washington, D.C., today is championing ladies who ride.

Female bikers still make up a small minority of cyclists -- they accounted for less than one-quarter of all bike trips in 2009 -- and Women Bike is determined to change that. "As the energy and momentum around women cycling grows nationwide, we need to share our collective knowledge, build a network of female leaders and start working on targeted programs that put more women in the saddle and at the forefront of the movement," writes Women Bike. "Women Bike will empower more women to bicycle and become engaged in the diverse leadership opportunities of the bicycle movement -- as advocates, engineers, retailers, manufacturers and policy makers -- through networking, knowledge sharing, resources and inspiration."

Earlier last month, Women Bike released a report about the economic impact of ladies on two wheels. "Though underrepresented in many aspects of the bicycle movement, there's growing evidence that women hold the purse strings when it comes to the future success of the bike industry," they wrote.

Read more: Cities, Living


Amtrak is making a comeback, kinda

If you've been on an Amtrak train lately with crappy snacks, non-working power outlets, and faulty wifi, you might not agree with the claim that "American passenger rail is in the midst of a renaissance." But that's the word from the folks at the Brookings Institution, which has released a new report detailing how Amtrak is "well-positioned for the future" after seeing massive growth over the last 15 years. Growth in ridership, that is, not in service.

"Ridership grew by 55 percent since 1997 and is now at record levels, with over 31 million travelers annually," according to Brookings. "That's faster than other travel modes like aviation and far outpaces the growth in population and economic output during that time." The study also found that 100 of the country's biggest metro areas are responsible for almost 90 percent of Amtrak's ridership, with 10 of those making up almost two-thirds of it.

Brookings has a sweet interactive map with data about Amtrak routes nationwide, with a focus on some of those most train-crazy big cities, and a look at which are the cheapest and most expensive rides in terms of operating costs. Here's a static version:

Brookings Institution

Compare, though, Brookings' map to this map showing how much the U.S. passenger rail network has shrunk since 1962, and that "renaissance" looks a little less golden.


Meet Obama’s EPA pick: Gina McCarthy

Gina McCarthy
Here's Gina.

President Obama today nominated Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency. She currently serves as assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation under outgoing EPA chief Lisa Jackson.

Lauded and loathed for her climate work, McCarthy, a 58-year-old Bostonite, has had a big hand in recent critical rules such as new auto emissions standards. She used to work as the top state environmental official for Massachusetts under a Gov. Mitt Romney, and then in the same role in Connecticut under another Republican governor, Jodi Rell. But she's still mostly a public unknown, which explains why people are so delighted/disturbed by her strong Boston accent.

McCarthy is squarely on the side of fighting climate change through sometimes aggressive policy-making. Her work in Massachusetts helped lead to the landmark Supreme Court case in 2007 that gave the EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. From The Wall Street Journal: