Mrs. Obama -- can I call you Michelle? -- do you have a minute? I know you’re on tour right now, but I think you and I need to have a little chat.
First off, childhood obesity is a major crisis, and your Let’s Move! anti-obesity campaign is an important initiative. The report your Presidential Task Force on Childhood Obesity produced was a landmark document, and you’ve brought new and essential attention to the ways the nation must address the obesity and diabetes epidemic.
But your latest move? Expecting the processed-food companies and retail giants to spearhead the move to healthy eating? It’s just not going to happen. I hope that’s not too harsh, but I wanted to be straight with you after reading your recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, “The Business Case for Healthier Food.” In it, you declare that:
Every day, great American companies are achieving greater and greater success by creating and selling healthy products. In doing so, they are showing that what's good for kids and good for family budgets can also be good for business.
And then you laud Walmart and Walgreens for expanding their selection of fresh fruits and vegetables and Disney for “eliminating ads for junk foods from its children’s programming.”
Kudos to them, but that’s all about “selling.” What about “creating”? You give a nod to restaurants “cutting calories, fat and sodium from menus and offering healthier kids' meals.” Now, that’s not nothing: Americans spend 40 percent of our food budgets eating out. But the rest goes to food we eat at home, and of that, we spend over 20 percent on processed food, and about 8 percent on soda and other sweetened beverages. That’s a big chunk of our daily caloric intake, not to mention our paychecks. And it’s not something you can ignore when you’re talking about any business case involving food.
We need you not just to tweak around the edges, but to entirely rethink the products that you’re offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children. ...
While decreasing fat is certainly a good thing, replacing it with sugar and salt isn’t. And it doesn’t mean compensating for high amounts of problematic ingredients with small amounts of beneficial ones — for example, adding a little bit of Vitamin C to a product with lots of sugar, or a gram of fiber to a product with tons of fat doesn’t suddenly make those products good for our kids ... This isn’t about finding creative ways to market products as healthy. As you know, it’s about producing products that actually are healthy — products that can help shape the health habits of an entire generation.
Except that was three years ago, and you’ve said not a peep on that subject since then. Instead we get empty platitudes on how healthy food is good for business. Well, the processed-food industry knows that what’s really good for business is engineering food products that hit consumers’ “bliss point” of flavor and texture.
While this is dandy for formal events, if you’re like me, your idea of everyday luxury is a shirt with no visible holes and/or marinara stains. Renting something for daily wear seems far-fetched, obtuse. Not to mention, not-so-sustainable. If you’re so caught up in trends that you need to constantly update your wardrobe, the clothing selection’s rentability will diminish faster than your wallet and green cred.
Two sites that bridge the gap nicely are Mine for Nine for maternity rentals and thredUP for kid’s clothes. While we obviously don’t want y’all getting pregnant just so you can rent some flexi-pants and OshKosh B’goshes, it makes sense to quit buying clothing for rapidly changing bodies.
"We're going to be very aggressive in this effort because we understand and appreciate, after the floods of 2011 and the drought of 2012, that folks need this assistance now," said Vilsack. "And by doing this, by taking these actions, we can help to mitigate and help to manage risks."
This week marked the start of the civil trial against BP over its role in the 2010 explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 men and caused the worst spill in U.S. history. District judge Carl Barbier warned of a lengthy trial, one that could last up to three months if a deal isn't reached earlier, and if the first three days of the trial are anything to go by, BP is in for a battery of tough questions about its safety record and procedures. As much as $17.5 billion in damages is hinged on the legal question of whether the company was “grossly negligent” in causing the deaths and the subsequent spill. Climate Desk caught up with Dominic Rushe at partner publication, the Guardian, who has been covering the trial as it unfolds.
Today Al Gore's Climate Reality Project dropped Reality Drop, aimed at dispelling climate myths by getting you invested in a weird new social network.
The Reality Drop website highlights articles on climate change, both bad and good, and gives you pre-written, smart, science-y language that you can cut and paste into their comment threads. Depending on how active you are, you can move up the police-style ranks from "rookie" to "lieutenant."
"No matter how much is occurring in the world with extreme weather, the industry keeps feeding denial. Though not all denial occurs online, we want to give people the tools to respond quickly and sharply to that denial," Maggie Fox, CEO of Climate Reality, told Mashable.
"It's time for us to go on the offense in a space that we can not only dominate, but change opinions."
Basically, Reality Drop wants you to troll for change.
On Thursday, Mr. Abe said that Japan had learned the need for tougher safety standards from the Fukushima accident, which forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate. He said the new safety standards will be enforced “without compromise.”
Mr. Abe also said Japan would continue seeking energy alternatives to reduce its dependence on nuclear power, even without going so far as to eliminate it.
Working in clean energy can be frustrating. Tons of exciting things are happening, but elite conventional wisdom isn't keeping pace and nobody listens to bloggers like me shouting about it.
One of the few outlets in the mainstream energy world to consistently stay ahead of the curve is Bloomberg New Energy Finance. (I have interviewed its chief executive, Michael Liebreich, before.) As Exhibit A, I offer this new "VIP brief" written by Liebreich and his able colleague Nathaniel Bullard. It's a big old chunk of brain food, slightly dense and buzzwordy in a few places but chock-full of insight about dynamics of the energy world in the coming decade. Let's take a look, shall we?
Like too few writers and analysts in this area, Liebreich explicitly takes a systems approach:
What happens when you saturate the system with wind or solar depends on what you think is going to happen next with power storage, demand response, electric vehicles, mandated back-up and dozens of other factors. These are all highly dynamic because, of course, they are part of a complex system, and systems exhibit emergent behavior. You can spend a lifetime studying the construction of a single neuron, yet know little of what drives a nematode, let alone a human. Real-life systems exhibit unexpected population surges and crashes, periods of equilibrium punctuated by periods of shattering change, tipping points, phase changes, extinctions.
... The value of a solar rooftop in a world of electric vehicles is very different from the value of the same solar rooftop in a world without. The value of demand response is negligible in a world optimised around "baseload-plus-peak" generating capacity. The value of energy efficiency is negligible in a world of fuel subsidies. And so on.
You will note that this echoes, somewhat eerily, my widgets vs. systems language. Naturally I agree!
Here, in capsule form, is the shift in perspective Liebreich urges for those making decisions in today's energy markets:
Remember when the luxury of being handed pretzels by a friendly attendant wasn't outweighed by baggage fees, porno-scanners, and all the other hassles and indignities of air travel? A Toronto-based improv group called Improv Toronto (go figure) does, and they wanted to bring that convenience to a generally more functional form of travel, i.e. the subway. So they sent uniformed "subway attendants" off to the city's Bloor Line with newspapers, blankets, and carts of snacks and drinks.
Where's the beef? Well, it's not in West Texas these days. It's always been kind of dry and desolate, but the last two years of epic drought have taken a serious toll on the region, driving in tumbleweeds and driving out agriculture and related business.
Earlier this month, a West Texas Cargill cattle processing plant suspended operations, leaving about 2,300 residents of Plainview out of work, more than 10 percent of the town's population. The company says it's not a permanent closure, but let's be real, Cargill: This is looking a lot like devastating dust-bowl economics, round two. From The New York Times:
Dozens of former plant workers have already moved, finding new jobs with the plant’s owner, Cargill, or other companies outside Plainview or outside the state, many pulling their children out of the town’s 12 public schools. When workers receive their last paychecks in three weeks, the question is whether they will stick around. And then, the more existential question, can the town survive without those who leave?