No reason to be hopeful?

On talking to our kids about the future

Now that the first month of the new year in the new decade has come to an end, a first month that has brought much to mourn and not much to celebrate, I’ve been thinking again about hope. What some were calling “Hopenhagen,” did not, as we all know, and perhaps should have known from the start, provide much reason for real hope. Daily there are more reasons to be worried — not just about climate change, but about genetically modified foods, ever-increasing rates of cancer, a great wave of extinction, the death of the oceans, and a hundred other …

Sweat the Small Stuff

How personal actions can kick-start a sustainability revolution

Step it up! Small is the new big.The environmental movement is divided over the importance of small steps — are they a critical starting point or a distraction from needed policy and institutional changes? A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but will small changes add up to the kind of massive shift needed to bring us toward sustainability? We say sweat the small stuff — but not because small decisions add independently to big change. Rather, because societal change isn’t just additive like stair-climbing, it’s transformative like metamorphosis, and small actions play a crucial role. …

Edible Oscar

Oscar smiles upon ‘Food, Inc.,’ stiffs ‘Mr. Fox’

Food, Inc., Robert Kenner’s hard-hitting exposé of the food industry, has snagged a Academy Award nomination in the “best documentary” category. (Full list of nominess here; Food Inc. is up against another food politics-themed film, The Cove.) This is a significant development. I know people in the food world who have taken a blase approach to Food Inc.--there’s “nothing in it I didn’t already know,” they grumble. That may be largely true of people immersed in food politics–but you have to give Kenner and crew credit for breaking the pink slime/ammonia burger story long before the mainstream media caught on. …

Buddy, can you spare two dimes?

Obama’s budget proposal serves up thin gruel for school lunch reform

Twenty of these won’t even get you an apple a day to keep the doctor away. As most readers of the Grist food section know by now, school lunches draw a meager share of the national budget. The federal government reimburses school cafeterias at a rate of up to $2.68 per student per day–a level that leaves administrators with well less than a dollar to spend per kid on ingredients. It’s no wonder that, to supplement the program, schools resort to offering all manner of “competitive foods”–e.g., chips, candy, corndogs, soda. It’s also no wonder that the quality of school …

Tater tot chronicles

A teacher’s blog takes a withering look at school lunches

Where does your food come from? In this Illinois public school, the answer is: plastic. Photo: Fed Up: School Lunch Project blogI normally don’t have much time for blog stunts–you know, I’m going to cook my way through such-and-such famous cookbook in a year, or stop using toilet paper, and then roll out a book and a movie. (By the way, still waiting for that bidding war over Meat Wagon rights.) But here’s a blog stunt worth studying–one that trains a withering gaze on the way we as a society treat children. Working from an unnamed Illinois school, an anonymous …

Sushi Savior

A Seattle chef proves that traditional sushi and healthy oceans go hand-in-chopstick

Scallop and dungeness crab salad wrapped in prosciutto topped with lumpfish caviar and avocado: A Hajime creation. Photo by Phu Son Nguyen of sushiday.comGrowing up in small-town Montana, two things just made no sense: vegetarians and sushi. Why eat tofu, or raw fish, when you could just as easily have a big juicy steak? Coming from generations of cattle rancher stock, I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s ringing defense of vegetarianism, Eating Animals, with trepidation. But the only beef I ended up having with Foer was that he ruined my ability to enjoy the raw and the rolled — right after …

Get down to business

Ask Umbra on sustainable manufacturing jobs, sexless fish, and matches

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I am wondering if you can help me with this question: What makes jobs in sustainable manufacturing “sustainable” (as opposed to just “manufacturing” jobs), and what do employers look for in determining whether a candidate is right for a “sustainable” or “green” job? And while we’re thinking about jobs, do you know where one can see what jobs are out there in the sus-man sector? Yours,Jesse W.Chicago A. Dearest Jesse, Have you ever been to a wedding reception where someone’s toast begins with some variation of, “The dictionary defines marriage as…”? My …

Shall we Sundance?

The best green films at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival has long been a celebrated venue for environmental documentaries, due in part to Sundance founder Robert Redford‘s green sensibilities. An Inconvenient Truth, The Cove, and Who Killed the Electric Car? all attracted critical buzz at Sundance before they made their way into theaters around the country. The festival’s 2010 lineup continues this trend with a handful of well-crafted, compelling films that address crucial environmental themes not yet in the public consciousness. Gasland Avant garde filmmaker Josh Fox grew up in Pennsylvania on a pastoral stretch of the Delaware River, which happens to sit on the natural …

Green eggs and coal

A Seussical retort to a “Green Coal” company claiming the Lorax name

A new coal-gasification company has named itself LoraxAg, after the consummate Seussical eco-hero, The Lorax. It’s admittedly part of a move to brand the company as advancing the mythical-sounding “Green Coal Technology.” (That’s trademarked, naturally.) “Green Coal” doesn’t sound musical to the Seussical.Photo: Chris1051 via Flickr “The Lorax is the protector of the truffula trees,” LoraxAg president Mike Farina said. “We think this is the greenest use of coal.” In response to the outright ridiculosity of the occasion, I’ve composed a brief tongue-in-cheek homage to one of my childhood heros, Dr. Seuss. (Let me just say it was a glum …

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