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Umbra on vegetarian remorse

Dear Umbra, I've been a vegetarian for almost 10 years. I started when I was 15, on pretty much a whim just to see if I could do it, but since then I've come to appreciate what I'm doing for my body and the planet. Lately, though, whether from boredom or subconscious protein cravings, I've been thinking about reintroducing fish to my diet. For convenience, variety, and health, I think it could be a good thing. But I don't want to go backwards in terms of what good (or least possible harm) I'm doing the environment via my eating habits. …

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Strengthening community is an important benefit of eating locally

The following is a guest essay originally posted at AlterNet by David Morris, vice president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Some 30 years ago NASA came up with another big idea: assemble vast solar electric arrays in space and beam the energy to earth. The environmental community did not dismiss NASA's vision out of hand. After all, the sun shines 24 hours a day in space. A solar cell on earth harnesses only about four hours equivalent of full sunshine a day. If renewable electricity could be generated more cheaply in space than on earth, what's the problem? A …

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Biofuels subsidies will only lead to increased food costs and habitat destruction

This, courtesy of the Financial Times, is a welcome development. Hopefully, the Doha Round of the GATT will get restarted, and this can be addressed in addition to the more general discussion of agricultural subsidies.

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As the season fades, it’s time for one last blueberry blowout

Before summer gets away from me entirely, I'd like to share a few more moments from the Northeast Organic Farming Association conference I went to a couple of weeks ago. (By the way, I referred to it as the Farmers' Association last time, which may seem like a small difference, but is actually an important one: you need not be a farmer to be a member.) It was a berry good year. Photo: iStockphoto On the first afternoon, it began to rain, and I ducked inside the Hampshire College bookstore to see if they sold umbrellas. They did, and some …

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ConAgra: No more toxic fake butter

Clearly not responding to my post from yesterday -- but rather to steady pressure from the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy and other groups -- ConAgra announced it would stop using diacetyl in its Orville Redenbacher and Act II microwave popcorn brands. Diacetyl, a fake butter flavoring, has been known for years to cause severe lung damage among food-industry workers who inhale it in vapor form. New evidence suggests that it also harms consumers. The question is, why did the food-processing giant wait so long to pull diacetyl? According to the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy, …

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Japan offers Micky D’s as reward for climate change promises

Today, in Japan: A Japanese government website crashed Wednesday as people raced to take up an offer of a half-price McDonald's hamburger in exchange for pledging to fight global warming. ... People were asked to check up to 39 boxes on a form they could download from the environment ministry's website, each listing a way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming. ... The 39 measures range from cutting air conditioning use to reducing shower time by one minute to simply wiping water off the bottom of a kettle to save energy when heating it on a stove. …

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While the FDA and EPA look away, noxious fumes from fake butter wreck lungs

Back in May, I drew attention to the remarkable fact that food-industry workers are literally dying from exposure to a key ingredient in microwave popcorn. The food additive diacetyl (responsible for that "buttery note" in nuked popcorn and also in margarine) emits a noxious fume when heated up -- one that can literally destroy people's lungs in high concentrations. Exposure to diacetyl has been decisively linked to a condition known with chilling accuracy as "bronchiolitis obliterans" -- an irreversible lung disease usually found only in survivors of serious fires. In that post, I wondered whether consumers of microwave popcorn -- …

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Exploring the tubes so you don’t have to

Mo' links! Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland Ohio recently passed a renewable portfolio standard that falls prey to the worst pitfalls of that particular policy mechanism: Gov. Ted Strickland wants to require that 25 percent of the electricity sold in Ohio by 2025 come from alternative energies, such as fuel cells, solar panels, windmills, nuclear and hydroplants. Half of that would have to come from renewable energy while the other half would come from nuclear, fuel cells or clean coal sources. The point of RPSs should be to boost renewable energy technology. If the point of this jerry-rigged contraption is to …

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‘Extreme localism’ in the New Yorker

Edible Media takes an occasional look at interesting or deplorable food journalism. Whatever else it has accomplished, the local-food movement has certainly conquered the appetites of New York's influential food-media editors. Following the lead of Gourmet, glossy mags like Food & Wine and Bon Appetit now offer regular paeans to place-based eating. The New York Times Wednesday food section sometimes seems like the house organ of the city's burgeoning eat-local scene -- and often covers the topic in locales across the country as well. As predictably as night follows day, this rise to fashionable status has inspired doubters. That's fine. …

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Huge organic dairy farm skirted organic rules, agrees to behave

One of America's largest organic dairies has agreed to alter its operations to comply with national organic standards after the U.S. Department of Agriculture threatened to remove its certification for skirting the rules. Aurora Organic Dairy, which sells milk under the label High Meadows and also makes milk for private-label brands including Wild Oats and Wal-Mart, was accused of not providing its cows with enough access to pasture in 2005 to qualify as organic. The subsequent investigation uncovered other rule-breaking such as the improper transitioning of cows from conventional to organic status. The company yesterday agreed to a consent decree …

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