Are you tired of hearing claims that chemical-intensive monocultures are the only way to feed the planet's growing population? With the first in her series of "mythbusting" videos, Anna Lappé, author of Diet for a Hot Planet and occasional Grist contributor, takes on this point directly. She argues that, in fact, a network of small-scale, independent farms using diversified, sustainable practices and a shift in the way the food we already grow gets eaten will go a long way toward solving the problem without such a heavy reliance on corporate agriculture. Take a look and tell us what you think.
(Did we mention that today is Food Day? Find food-related activities in your area here.)
There may be no state legislative race this year more freighted with significance for clean energy than the contest in California's 27th state Senate district.
That's where Democrat Fran Pavley, a long-time champion of clean energy, is facing off against Todd Zink, a Republican first-timer backed by a torrent of dirty-energy, and just dirty, money. The same corporate interests that haven't been able to block or repeal Pavley's legislative victories now want to punish her for passing them -- and send a message to other state legislators who might be getting green ideas.
At stake in the race is not only Pavley's final term in office (she has said this is the last time she plans to run), but a rare chance for Democrats to take two-thirds of the state Senate, which would at long last provide them the ability to bypass the opposition of state Republicans and manage the state's budget like adults.
There's probably no one in the U.S. who's done more for clean energy, for less credit, than Fran Pavley.
As a freshman in the California Assembly back in 2002 (after 25 years as a middle-school teacher), Pavley introduced AB 1493, which required sharp cuts in carbon emissions from passenger vehicles in the state. It was among the first state bills ever targeted directly at greenhouse gases. She navigated the bill through the Assembly with a razor-thin one-vote margin. It went on to a long journey past the Senate, the governor's desk, the California Air Resources Board, the U.S. EPA, and the U.S. EPA again, but the standards were finally implemented in 2009.
In the intervening years, some 17 other states followed California's lead and adopted the same standards. It effectively created two sets of fuel-economy standards in the U.S., one for Pavley states, one for other states. It drove auto companies mad. That's what got them to the table to negotiate the national fuel-economy standards Obama finalized this year.
Will the food movement ever really turn political? This question has been much discussed of late, thanks in part to Michael Pollan’s recent New York TimesMagazine op-ed on California’s GMO labeling referendum (which I discussed here).
And yes, as Pollan argued recently, whether or not California’s Prop 37 passes will be one sign that the movement has come of age (i.e. eaters “voting with votes, not just forks”). But winning one election in one state, however large and trendsetting, would be just the beginning. Every good political movement identifies its allies and its enemies in an attempt to breed more of the former and weed out the latter.
Today -- on Food Day -- we’re seeing signs that the food movement may in fact be starting to grow up. And like learning how to balance a checkbook or making sure bills get paid on time, some of the most crucial rites of passage can seem more like chores than privileges.
Emilee and Jere Gettle are an unlikely power couple. Dubbed "The Evangelists for Heirloom Vegetables" by The New York Times, the Gettles run the largest mail-order heritage seed business in the U.S. Their empire includes seed banks in California and Connecticut, Heirloom Gardener magazine, and a pioneer village on their Missouri farm. They host trade fairs and heritage festivals, write vegan cookbooks, and homeschool their 5-year-old daughter, Sasha.
Their lives sound like something from a different era. Raised by homesteading parents, Jere started gardening at 3 and opened Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at age 17. He met Emilee in 2006, when she interviewed him over the phone about homeschooled kids starting their own businesses -- then stopped by a few months later for a visit. “When she walked into the seed store ... my heart stood still,” Jere writes of their first meeting. “She was beautiful and elegant, and I knew right away that I wanted to marry her.” And he did -- a few months later.
If you don’t already have a lump the size of a Tennessee Dancing gourd in your throat, the family dresses like they're straight out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel. In photos, the whole family can be seen posing in farm fields and seed shops wearing carefully selected, brightly colored vintage clothing. While the look undoubtedly endears them to the press and makes their pioneer village feel authentic, Emilee says the aesthetic is sincere: “I just think older clothes are prettier than some of the modern fashion that’s out there.”
Emilee says her wardrobe is 75 percent vintage or vintage-inspired. Right now, she buys most of her clothing off of eBay or at consignment shops, but she is currently working on an online dressmaking degree and plans on whipping out her sewing machine more this winter. She scours old magazines and patterns and even seed catalogs for insight on how folks used to dress. She crochets in the car and fires off patterns to Coats and Clarks when she reaches an internet connection and her 5-year-old is napping.
It's heritage and craftiness taken to its logical extreme -- an (admittedly eccentric) rejection of most everything industrial and mass-produced. And while we may not all be ready to don pairs of pinstripe overalls, it's an ideal we can learn from.
I caught up with Emilee as they were putting the finishing touches on their annual seed catalog, getting ready to head to Italy for a slow food event and seed hunting, and getting Christmas presents together (all handmade or artisan-bought, natch) so she can just wrap them up when they return in December.
Q.Why is heritage so important to your family?
A. For the seed aspect, I think it’s really important that we maintain those variety of heirlooms that grandparents and parents passed down to us. One, they have more nutrition than modern varieties do. On top of that, the history. This is how food is supposed to taste. They grew it and it tasted good. It wasn’t “this looks like a tomato but you’re not tasting anything.”
I like that with old-fashioned clothes: They made it and it held up. With [modern] clothing -- it looks nice but it’s going to fall apart in a week. These clothes have been around for 30, 40 years and I can still wear them and they aren’t falling apart. I like that time-honored skill went into it.
Most urban streams and creeks are hidden from sight -- in huge sewer tunnels under streets and expressways, in concrete ditches behind razor-wire fences, and sometimes even in pipes under the manicured lawns and gardens of city parks.
These are hardly the kinds of places you'd see on the cover of an L.L. Bean catalog -- although you might find a few L.L. Bean catalogs in these concrete creeks.
But a growing network of urban explorers, who sometimes call themselves “drainers,” are sneaking into the storm sewers and aqueducts to rediscover these long-hidden waterways. They’re finding lush forest groves among the concrete ditches and waterfalls and grand vaulted grottoes in underground sewers. Their photography and field notes remind residents that the rivers and streams that nursed their cities’ early growth still survive below the pavement, and are still worthy of appreciation -- maybe even restoration.
“I’m disappointed. I was surprised it wasn’t mentioned at all.”
Speaking from his hotel room in Washington, D.C., after the third presidential debate last night, Bob Inglis -- the former South Carolina Republican representative, and now conservative advocate for climate solutions -- said he had truly expected the subject of climate change at last to come up. In this final, foreign-policy focused debate, Inglis thought, a climate-centered exchange between the candidates might have come more naturally than in the U.S. domestic context, where pocketbook issues predominate.
“It was a missed opportunity to recognize action on energy and climate,” said Inglis, “which is clearly related to foreign policy.”
Inglis is just one of a growing number of scientists, environmentalists, and science policy advocates whose jaws have dropped steadily lower over the past month, as the presidential debates have unfolded without any mention of the single leading science-based political and environmental issue.
A research outfit called Clean Edge has just released its first annual U.S. Metro Clean Tech Index, which ranks U.S. cities by their leadership in cleantech. There's nothing particularly shocking in it -- California is way ahead! -- but it's worth mulling over.
The rankings were done on a scale of 100, with equal weight given to each of the following four categories:
Individual indicators include "green building deployment, clean vehicles in use, advanced transportation infrastructure, public transportation ridership, regional electricity mix, GHG emissions, venture capital investment, clean energy patents, and clean economy jobs, among other things." All are weighted for population.
Since I last spoke to director Graham Meriwether about his documentary American Meat, we’ve experienced the Occupy movement, a long, grinding national campaign season, and another brutally hot summer of record-shattering drought, wildfire, and storms. Throughout that time, Meriwether and crew have been traveling the country showing American Meat at Future Farmers of America chapters, high schools, and universities, having conversations with folks invested in every corner of the food system, from sustainable to conventional, small-scale to large. The film explores ways to make America’s meat healthier for producers, eaters, and the environment, shedding light on the struggles and successes of several types of farmer.
Meriwether says the documentary’s first goal is to thank America’s farmers -- particularly the younger ones. As they’ve been on the road, Meriwether and his team have been producing short video portraits of young farmers around the country, which they plan to eventually use for their next film.
Meriwether just kicked off a 100-screening tour (10 screenings each in 10 mainly farm states). AmericanMeat didn’t premiere in New York City, and Meriwether didn't submit it to any film festivals; he wanted to bring it to the kinds of places where he feels the film can have the most impact. We caught up with him between shows in Missouri to hear the latest.
I moved to Detroit almost 10 years ago, largely because I was interested in learning more about the city's burgeoning community gardens. At the time, little media interest was being paid to Detroit or its urban agriculture movement, and it certainly was not a place folks were looking to for the future of city gardening.
Not long after my arrival, my sister hit me with a sucker punch of a question: "Don't you ever worry that your work in community gardening is contributing to gentrification?"
I vehemently denied her charges, but in the back of my mind I had already been turning over the question, and feared that she might be right. Over the years, her question has stuck with me, and it seems especially pressing now, as development in Detroit is ramping up. Proposals for a light rail system, construction of a high-end grocery store, and the rehabbing of luxury lofts all have folks wondering where this will lead. Some see it as Detroit's rebound, others worry that rents will begin to skyrocket and the working class will be driven out.
Looking at the Detroit landscape, there is still so much empty land, and so many vacant buildings, it can often be difficult to imagine gentrification even happening. I've met people who say "a little gentrification would be a good thing for Detroit."
Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus have a real knack for stirring the pot.
In 2004, the duo, founders of an Oakland, Calif.-based think tank called the Breakthrough Institute, published a paper called “The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World.” Much to the chagrin of many old-school greens, they argued that the institution of environmentalism was unable to deal with the global crises knocking at our door, because environmentalists were pigeonholed by what they called “the politics of limits” -- that is, enviros keep prophesying the End Times, only to be proven publicly and embarrassingly wrong. (Grist ran a whole series about the ensuing melee under the banner “Don’t Fear the Reapers.”)