Until recently city leaders were sadly shaking their heads and declaring that composting was simply impossible in New York. This 180 happened so recently that the government website (updated as recently as 2011) still explains that composting, essentially, can't and won’t work.
Tsukumi Dolphin Island, a Sea World-type park in Japan, employs an otter named Kotsumekawauso to fetch patrons juice from a vending machine. You have to pay for the juice, but the adorable squeaking is a free service.
Get ready for a swath of marine sterility the likes of which Gulf fishermen have never seen.
NOAA warned Tuesday that a dead zone the size of New Jersey could break records this summer in the Gulf of Mexico. Heavy rainfalls are washing a stew of pollutants and nutrients into the Gulf, feeding outbreaks of algae that will rob the waters of oxygen as they die and decompose. In these oxygen-deprived waters, marine life either flee or die.
The Gulf dead zone is caused every summer by fertilizer and animal waste running off from farms, including those along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Sewage and other sources of nutrient-loaded pollution, such as lawn fertilizers, also play a role. From a NOAA press release:
Well THIS is creepy and insidious. Processed-crap peddlers McDonald’s, Kraft, and Dominos have realized eaters interpret perfect-looking food as artificial (you mean meat doesn't naturally come packaged like Post-Its?), whereas slightly flawed or asymmetrical food reads as artisan and authentic. So what are they doing? Working harder to make their shitty food look like your scrappy neighborhood café made it:
When stretching out the dough for its premium "Artisan Pizzas," Domino's workers are instructed not to worry about making the rectangles too perfect: The pies are supposed to have a more rustic look.
At McDonald's, the egg whites for the new breakfast sandwich called the Egg White Delight McMuffin have a loose shape rather than the round discs used in the original Egg McMuffin.
And Kraft Foods took more than two years to develop a process to make the thick, uneven slabs of turkey in its Carving Board line look like leftovers from a homemade meal rather than the cookie-cutter ovals typical of most lunchmeat.
We on the West Coast know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We don't mind at all! In fact, we're just itching to offer advice.
When I asked Melanie Nutter, director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, what counsel she would give, she said cities really have to teach people how to compost. "It’s not something you necessarily know how to do, so there has to be education," she said. "And it has to be multilingual."
How do you educate? Robert Reed, spokesperson for San Francisco’s waste management company Recology, says you just have to show people how cool composting really is.
If you've ever wondered whether water improves with age like a fine wine, wonder no longer: The answer is "nope." Scientists found water in Canada that had been trapped in veins of rock 1.5 miles underground for at least a billion and possibly as much as 2.64 billion years. In the name of pure research, one of the discoverers took a taste. It was gross. Mystery solved.
As a journalist, it takes a lot to really piss me off: I've found that most scandals aren't really scandals if you dig past the screaming headlines and into the wonky details. And, though I grew up a corporation-hating liberal, in nearly every story I've reported I've found that for the most part, businesspeople act honestly and honorably. The companies actually trying to make the world better often make easy targets, because when you are grappling with genuine complexity -- which is what corporations do -- you are bound to make mistakes.
And then, every once in a while, I come across a true scandal, and it tips me back toward cynicism.
That said, now I'm pissed off: Monday morning we learned that the ag-tech corporation Syngenta paid millions of dollars in a covert effort to protect its herbicide atrazine and discredit critics. (The story, put out by Environmental Health News and 100Reporters, is worth reading in full here.) It's a solid case study illustrating the lengths a company will go to influence the scientific debate. And, usefully, the documents show who Syngenta was paying to shill for them.
When dozens of police officers in riot gear raided the occupied Hayes Valley Farm in San Francisco early last Thursday morning, it seemed like the end of the road for this garden space. Activists from around the Bay Area had moved in on June 1 with the hopes of holding off the developers set to raze the farm and replace it with 182 condo units, retail space, and a parking garage. But after the early raid, a handful of arrests, and one activist falling 30 feet from a protest platform hung in a tree, it looked like time had run out.
That was before everyone met the Allen's hummingbird.
Taylor Shellfish Company, an oyster hatchery in Quilcene, Wash., is trying to combat ocean acidification by putting a sodium carbonate solution in the water. First having drugs in the water was bad, and now it’s ... good? Jeez, Nature, MAKE UP YOUR MIND.
Oyster hatcheries are dropping the equivalent of Tums and other antacids into water to make it easier for naked mollusk larvae to build their shells... [O]cean waters [are] turning ever more corrosive as they absorb a fraction of the carbon dioxide humans are pumping into the atmosphere. The acidification, in turn, makes it harder for oyster larvae to build their shells.
We have a bountiful selection of summer fruits and vegetables at lots of local farmers markets. My problem is my wife is obsessed with organic ONLY. I want to support organic but I also very much want to support locally grown products. In the last week, my wife has chosen organic tomatoes from Mexico and organic red peppers from Holland over locally grown versions. I'm having a problem buying produce shipped thousands of miles versus the same non-organic product raised less than 10 miles away. Help! Which is the better choice?
Jim H. York, Penn.
A. Dearest Jim,
The real question is not which is the better choice, but can this marriage be saved?!
Spoiler: It probably can.
You are not the first to be plagued by this supposed either-or conundrum, and you and your wife both have good instincts. Your wife is presumably sold on the notion that organic produce is better for the land and better for your health, and perhaps also wants to send a signal to the local grocery. Her dollars support an industry worth an estimated $27 billion in 2012, according to the USDA, up from $11 billion in 2004. (Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But organics still make up only 3.5 percent of U.S. food sales.)
You, meanwhile, are attracted to the idea of supporting farmers in the York area, putting money into the local economy, and knowing where your food comes from. You are lucky to be within reach of “lots” of markets. That’s not the case for many of us, although farmers markets are sprouting faster than radishes: Last year, nearly 7,900 had sprung up across the country, compared to 3,100 a decade earlier. These markets account for about 20 percent of local food sales in the U.S., an industry currently estimated at $7 billion. (The rest of the local-food sales are to restaurants, distributors, and the like.)
Here’s the thing, Jim: If you have access to lots of local markets, I am absolutely sure you have access to food that is local and organic. This is not an either-or situation. You and your wife can both be happy.