Wherein I play God

Making my neighborhood more walkable, sociable, sustainable, and safe

This weekend, I wrote a somewhat abstract post about how America’s built spaces prevent many Americans from connecting with the supportive social networks essential to health and happiness. Let’s zoom from the lofty down to the concrete. Let’s talk about my neighborhood. I live in the Bitter Lake area of Seattle. (In the early 20th century, an adjacent sawmill dumped so much tannic acid into the lake that horses wouldn’t drink the water — thus the name.) It’s zoned as an “urban village,” but at least for now that designation is, er, aspirational. Most of it isn’t mixed use, but …

Lunch bell

Why even the childless should care about school lunch

PB&J as metaphor: a subsidized lunch served in an Illinois school. Photo: Mrs. Q Regular readers will have noticed a certain emphasis on school lunch in the Grist food section lately. Veteran journalist Ed Bruske has been doing superb on-the-ground reporting on the topic; I’ve been obsessing about the anonymous teacher blogger Mrs. Q, and writing disappointed critiques of the school-lunch legislation now in the Senate. A couple of days ago, Lisa Hymas’ great post on green-inclined people who choose to be childless — Lisa has dubbed them GINKs — got me to thinking. Are a lot of people tuning …

Make ends meat

Ask Umbra’s Book Club: Is eating animals eating you?

Dearest readers, Great thread yesterday on the varying viewpoints surrounding issues of independence, financial culpability, the 9-to-5 rat race, and being possessed by our possessions—all inspired by Dolly Freed’s Possum Living circa 1978. For today’s starting point, I thought we’d delve into the blood and guts—literally—as in raising, killing, cleaning, and eating your own meat like Freed and her father did during their five years of living off the land. Do you think it’s possible to lead this type of subsistence lifestyle without eating animals? What do you see as the difference between killing your own meat and buying it? …

Earth Day on Every Block

Co-authored with Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr, Hip Hop Caucus On April 22, 1970, the world recognized the first Earth Day. That same year, Hip Hop was born in the streets of New York City. For four decades, Earth Day and Hip Hop have been seen by many as rebellious; two voices speaking out against injustice, two commitments to principles that make some uncomfortable or angry. For us, Earth Day 2010 marks a moment to reflect on 40 years of progress, to continue our commitment to addressing problems that have been ignored for too long, and to celebrate the spirit of …

Hello, Dolly

Ask Umbra’s Book Club: Does your job own you?

Dearest readers, How did you like our first book club selection, Dolly Freed’s Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and With (Almost) No Money? I thoroughly enjoyed it—aside from some mild retching at the thought of removing a turtle’s gallbladder (a necessary step for a proper snapper soup)—and came away feeling amused, inspired, and challenged. But enough about my insights; I’m much more interested in your inklings. In the first chapter, Freed writes, “People don’t own possessions, their possessions own them,” and, “We have and get the good things in life so easily it seems silly to …


A movement far larger than the Tea Party

As an antidote to news of the oil spill on the Great Barrier Reef, here’s Paul Hawken giving last May’s commencement address at Portland University. From the entrepreneur, author, and ideas guy: There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are …

Tom's Kitchen

Pasta con sarde: the gateway drug for sardine obsession

Sardines at a market in Portugal. We’re wasting this magnificent resource on low-quality, mercury-laden farmed salmon? Not in Tom’s Kitchen! In Tom’s Kitchen, Grist’s food editor discusses some of the quick-and-easy things he gets up to in, well, his kitchen. Forgive him for the lame iPhone photography. —— A while ago, my colleague Jon Hiskes requested a recipe for sardines. He said he knew he should eat more of them, but didn’t know how to make them in an appealing way. Moreover, his wife, like lots of folks, was predisposed to hate them. Ah, I thought to myself, I’ve got …

Turn that clown upside down

Ask Umbra on Ronald McDonald’s retirement, card games, and a coffee stirring stir

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, After close to 50 years of hawking fatty food directly to kids, a groundswell of parents, health experts, and children’s advocates are calling on McDonald’s to retire Ronald McDonald. A new report and national poll released by Corporate Accountability International found that close to half of the public favors the clown’s retirement. What do you think? MyriahBoston A. Dearest Myriah, Did you happen to catch one of Grist‘s (sadly) more believable April Fools’ articles last week? Who knew so many people would actually believe that McDonald’s food wouldn’t break down in 1,000 …

Vive la différence

My family (yours, too) needs rich social spaces–not cars–to be happy

Lisa’s fantastic essay, “Say it loud: I’m childfree and I’m proud,” had 196 comments last time I checked. If you haven’t read it, you really should. I’ll wait here. … It got me thinking. Pardon a weekend ramble. Me and my little resource hogs.I’m a father of two boys and I’ve absolutely loved it. I was making pretty poor use of being childless anyway, and it turns out having kids suits me better than independence ever did. But my first reaction to Lisa’s essay was not defensiveness. It’s not like we’re taking a quiz and there’s only one right answer. …

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.