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'The ABCs of rainforest destruction'

Raising a ruckus about agrofuels at the Chicago Board of Trade

From the The Chicago Tribune: Police this morning arrested five people who scaled the Chicago Board of Trade building in the Loop and unfurled a banner to protest the destruction of the world's rain forests. The demonstrators, members of the Rainforest Action Network ... displayed a 50-foot banner protesting three U.S. agriculture companies. The protest was part of a campaign to "halt agribusiness expansion in the rain forests of South America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific," according to a statement by the group. The protest targeted agribusiness firms Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge and Cargill. Yes.

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The savory challenges of being a sustainable chef in Big Ag country

Fifteen years ago, I left a great job teaching at a prestigious northeast culinary school to move back to Iowa and be an executive chef at a Holiday Inn. It was difficult to find people, in Vermont or Iowa, who did not think I was certifiably insane. Those who thought they knew Iowa claimed, "There's no there there!" And those who did not asked, "Iowa? Isn't that where they grow potatoes?" Because I had spent my undergraduate years in Iowa, I was accustomed to the rest of the country, especially folks from the coasts, referring to it as one of …

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It Can Be Done

Images of a sustainable-food revolution

Imagine a place where residents pull together to create a thriving store and restaurant serving fresh, local food. Imagine a place where the money appears, the dreams become real, the produce and pastured meat taste like home. Imagine a place where officials support these dreams with policies that fund organic farmers and encourage the purchase of local food. You can stop imagining. It's happening in Woodbury County, Iowa. It may seem an unlikely place for a food revolution, but in some ways it's absolutely fitting. Surrounded by an increasingly industrial landscape, the people here decided they were hungry for change, …

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Anti-bottled-water campaign kicks off in cities across U.S.

A Think Outside the Bottle campaign kicked off today, urging municipal governments to cut off bottled-water contracts and to press for greater disclosure of the source of bottled H2O. The campaign is spearheaded by Corporate Accountability International and joined by cities including Boston, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and Portland, Ore., many of which held taste tests today to see if consumers can tell the difference between bottled and tap water. Chicago's mayor urged a 10-cent tax on bottled water, while Salt Lake City Mayor (and official Grist crush) Rocky Anderson told it like it is: "When I see people ... waste their …

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In the farm belt, a look at the extremes of agricultural production

When I arrived in Iowa on a reporting trip this summer, I expected to experience it with city eyes: frankly, as a rural backwater. I've lived on a farm in the Appalachians of North Carolina since 2004, but the ten years before that, I lived in Mexico City and New York City. I don't know from vast fields and wide horizons. Instead, barreling down the highway between appointments across the state, surrounded on all sides by expanses of corn and soy, my progress through space marked by that little hypnotic line that forms as your eye picks up the gaps …

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A slew of new reports on biofuel subsidies

Evaluating U.S. and EU policies

The last couple of months I've been busy preparing two major reports on government support for biofuels, both for the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). These reports follow on from our October 2006 report on support for biofuels in the United States, which we commissioned from Doug Koplow of Earth Track, and which has been cited numerous times on these pages. Last month, we issued what we call our "Synthesis Report," our overview of government support for biofuels in selected OECD countries. Coming out right on the heels of the so-called "OECD Paper" …

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Boosting crops for fuel will hurt water supplies, says report

Increased production of corn and other crops to fulfill America's biofuel gluttony could threaten both availability and quality of water supplies, according to a report released today by the National Research Council. Fulfilling President Bush's stated goal of producing 35 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2017 "would mean a lot more fertilizers and pesticides" running into rivers and oceans, says researcher Jerald Schnoor. In addition, he says, corn requires "a high amount of water" -- about 2,000 gallons per bushel, to be precise -- not counting the H2O used in ethanol factories. The National Research Council is an arm …

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Guilt-free fizz

Want environmentally conscious effervescence? DIY

If you're a fan of sparkling water but feel guilty about having to buy it bottled, you might enjoy this NYT story about home seltzer makers that provide "environmentally conscious effervescence." Myself, I don't care for the bubbly stuff, but I did find this part amusing (emph. mine, obvi): Plain tap water has become the surprise food fashion of the year. A growing number of restaurants are offering it in place of bottled water, which is much more lucrative and whose popularity had made the free-flowing kind seem déclassé. On the street, it is not uncommon to see people toting …

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Umbra on tossing food waste

Dear Umbra, I am a college student. I eat a lot on the go. Not fast food or boxed meals, but when I leave my dorm I usually grab an apple, banana, or other fruit/veggie to eat as I walk to my destination. I don't compost, instead I just throw the banana peel or apple core into the bushes. I like the thought that maybe one day my apple core will become an apple, or that my banana peel will help nourish that piece of ground/animals in the area over ending up in a landfill. To me this eco-littering is …

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French conservatives go green, too!

Sarkozy pushes proposals on energy and the environment

We have already seen that British Conservatives "get" global warming -- both the danger of inaction and the economic opportunity of a "green revolution." Now the right wing cheese-eating surrender monkeys are also putting their American political counterparts to shame. As Nature reports about the new conservative French president: Sarkozy made the greening of France a major plank of his election campaign this year. He has since created a superministry for ecology, biodiversity and sustainable development, with responsibility for the powerful sectors of transport, energy and construction -- a first in France, where ecology was previously off the political radar. …