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Brooklyn vacation report

A good time was had by … me

Just got back in town today. Not quite ready to jump back in the grind, so I'll procrastinate a bit by talking about my vacation. We woke up Saturday morning(ish) to discover that quite literally across the street from the friend's place where we were staying (on the east side of Fort Green Park) there was a little street market, with vendors selling local, organic, farm-raised, home-baked, hand-crafted, packed-full-of-authentic-goodness foodstuffs and crafts. Thus, breakfast: locally made banana bread and apple-raspberry juice squeezed from local fruit. This was emblematic of our trip, which basically consisted of shopping, eating, reading, sleeping, and …

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Grinding to a Halt

Changes in USDA policy could hit organic coffee hard Hold onto your latte: News is seeping out about a change at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that could affect the cost and availability of organic products from developing countries, including bananas, spices, sugar, and coffee. Normally, a farm must undergo an annual inspection to get certified. But for years, co-ops and large growers' groups in the global south have been allowed to largely police themselves, with USDA inspectors visiting 20 percent of each group per year. Now, motivated by a Mexican group that let some violations slide, the agency says …

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The last organic latte

Organic coffee deep-sixed

Due a recent decision over at the USDA's National Organic Program, organic coffee, in the U.S. at least, may be a thing of the past. I wrote about this decision on Salon and did not shout it out to Gristies right away (mea culpa), but I am now. The USDA decision, which affects the way small farmer cooperatives in the Third World are certified, will also dry up supplies of organic cocoa and curtail bananas. So eat your organic Dagoba bars now while they're still available. It doesn't look like there's a solution right away, though a friend over at …

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Slow Food nation

Crafting a culture of change

Yale University students, staff, and other community members crowded a university conference room yesterday to watch Erika Lesser, director of Slow Food USA, give a talk on the Slow Food movement in America. Lesser spoke pretty generally about Slow Food USA's goals, philosophy, and achievements. The talk was interesting in itself, but there were two aspects that I found particularly significant: Lesser made some very interesting connections between Slow Food and American environmentalism (more on this below). It was a horribly cold, rainy, awful day, the talk was located in an incredibly out-of-the-way part of campus, yet nonetheless the room …

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Say it ain't so, Mario

A great chef pimps his name for industrial food

Mario Batali is a great chef and restaurateur. I've never had the chance to eat at his celebrated restaurants Babbo and Del Posto, but I have eaten several times at Otto, his relatively modest pizza joint in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. The food there is very, very good. (Try the gelato -- especially the incredibly delicate olive oil one. Or go with affogato -- a scoop of vanilla gelato "drowned" in a shot of espresso.) I've also cooked from his cookbooks. Like all great cooks working in the Italian culinary idiom, he exhorts you to apply simple, powerful techniques to top-flight …

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Hot planet, poison fish

This one will hit harder in the global south

Climate change is affecting the oceans in any number of unpredictable ways. For example, under pressure from rising ocean temperatures (and toxic waste), coral reefs -- those glorious engines of biodiversity -- are degrading. I knew that. But this one was new to me: They also become breeding grounds for poisonous algae. And that poison accumulates in the big fish that eat the little fish that eat the algae -- making coral-dwelling fish toxic and sometimes even deadly for humans. So reports AP environmental writer Michael Casey in a recent piece. If we reach a point where coral-dwelling fish become …

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Between a Rocky and a chainstore

SLC mayor at it again

Have we mentioned how cool Rocky Anderson is? The Salt Lake City Council is pondering a resolution to keep chain stores with "cookie-cutter architecture" out of neighborhood business districts. Mayor Rocky and his staff are pushing them to take it step futher and keep chain stores out, period. "I don't care what kind of facade Starbucks has; we ought to be promoting more local businesses rather than category killers and big boxes," he told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I've been in McDonald's with a nice facade in the front. They're still McDonald's."

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Green consumerism: Getting the rat poison out of the baby food

So to speak

No, as far as I know, no baby-food maker ever used rat poison as an ingredient. The point is that we don't have to worry about it; if you have an infant switching off milk, you can shop the baby food counter confident that none of the choices will contain rat poison. However, as a consumer, buying "green" is not quite so easy. Hastening the end of our civilization is a routine ingredient in most of the things we buy. By spending a little extra time and money, we can sometimes find alternatives that don't contribute to our society's destruction …

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A moment for remembering Ransom Myers

Fisheries biologist’s work revealed extent of loss of oceanic fishes

From the Washington Post: Ransom A. Myers, 54, the world-renowned fisheries biologist whose research showed that the number of large fish in the world's oceans has dropped by 90 percent in the past 50 years, died of a brain tumor March 27 at a hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The journal Science has just published a major paper co-written by Dr. Myers, "Cascading Effects of the Loss of Apex Predatory Sharks from a Coastal Ocean," about the importance of sharks in marine ecosystems. There is an abstract of the paper on the Science website. More than any other scientist, Ransom's …

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Algae-based biofuels: ready or not?

Not — yet, anyway

I know there are Gristmill readers with high hopes for algae-based biofuels. They will enjoy this piece in Popular Mechanics. Here's the hope: Solix addresses these problems [algae's finicky growing habits] by containing the algae in closed "photobioreactors" -- triangular chambers made from sheets of polyethylene plastic (similar to a painter's dropcloth) -- and bubbling supplemental carbon dioxide through the system. Eventually, the source of the CO2 will be exhaust from power plants and other industrial processes, providing the added benefit of capturing a potent greenhouse gas before it reaches the atmosphere. Given the right conditions, algae can double its …

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