Archive for the ‘Take Action’ Category

We need a new generation of farmers (and here’s where they’ll come from)

Here’s a wonderfully succinct and proactive slogan: AMERICA NEEDS A MILLION NEW FARMERS. VETERANS WANT THE JOB.

This is the appeal of a website that supports a new documentary called Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields.

As you know, the average age of farmers in America is 57 – and we’re going to need more of them in future years as the current generation retires. And who better to fill their shoes than the returning veterans who are looking for work?

As the website says, “The mission of Ground Operations is to strengthen the growing network of combat veterans transitioning into new careers in sustainable farming and ranching. Let’s help them get started and build their resources, so that they can create healthy new lives for themselves and food security for communities across America.”

I’m old enough to remember the Viet Nam war, the protests, the loss of lives, and the strains endured by returning veterans of my generation. Thankfully, we’ve learned our lesson and offer ceremonies of welcome and other support for this generation of young people who were sent overseas to fight in our name. BUT our economy leaves them in the lurch.

Farming – the perfect solution. Swords into plowshares!

Currently scheduled screenings of Ground Operations can be found here. Trailers are also available on the website. You can also make a donation via the crowdsourcing site IndieGoGo

This is the first financial appeal I’ve made from The Green Foodprint in the years I’ve been blogging. I’ve donated. Please consider adding your dollars to this cause.

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Valentine’s Day for earth lovers

valentine lg

It’s not too soon to think about sustainable holidays. Valentine’s Day first. From an article I wrote for Lafayette Today, a local print newspaper, here are some tips I suggested. (The full article can also be found here).

Give time, not things. Take someone you love for a walk outdoors. Offer to help clean up a cluttered garage. Take him or her to a concert of favorite music.

Make a donation to your loved one’s favorite cause.

The classic romantic dinner.  A restaurant meal is not guaranteed to be romantic. In the crowd on Valentine’s Day, the restaurant might like you to hurry so they can seat the next diners, or refuse to customize your request. You could create a romantic dinner at home (using sustainably farmed ingredients, of course!), or dine out on the weekend or on February 13.

Having a party?  Try alternatives to all those paper and plastic goods that probably came all the way from China, destined for an American landfill.  Serve finger foods so that guests only need napkins, or use plates that you can wash.  Or rent plates, glasses, and silverware to make an elegant dining experience.

Single? Treat yourself to a massage. Have a day at the spa. Check out the gently used books at your local second-hand bookshop.

This year, make the earth your valentine!

Fish are disappearing

mbayaq sefood guide

It’s natural to think that there are always more fish in the sea, but our modern fishing methods – which are more like floating industrial packing factories – are scooping up millions of tons of fish. Did you know that trawlers may use heavy nets that reach the ocean bottom to scrape up everything in their path? Such trawlers have left muddy trails so wide and so long that they can be seen from the International Space Station.

As I mentioned in my book, “Fish aren’t the only ones to suffer. Jobs disappear when fisheries go out of business from overfishing; 40,000 jobs were lost when Canada’s Atlantic cod fishery collapsed in the 1990s, and it has yet to recover. Over 72,000 jobs were lost in the Pacific Northwest due to declining stocks. In 2008 and 2009, the fishing season was closed on the West Coast.”

But the problem now faces New England states. According to John Bullard, a member of the New England Fishery Management Council, “We are headed, slowly, seeming inexorably, to oblivion… It’s midnight and getting darker when it comes to how many cod there are,” he said. “There [aren’t] enough cod for people to make a decent living.”  The article describes the anguish of fishers afraid of losing their livelihood, furious that the agency wants to set lower catch limits.

What a dilemma! But should we allow today’s fishers to exterminate the entire stock of fish? I’m reminded of the redwood debate of a decade or so ago, when a wise soul opined: “We’re going to stop cutting down redwoods. The only question is, When shall we do it? Right now, or after they’re all gone?”

What you can do: Go to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to see what fish are acceptable to eat, which ones are dubious choices, and which should be strictly off your menu. Better yet: say goodbye to fish altogether.

All those food labels

We’re lucky that our food has been labeled for many nutritional facts for decades. (Of course, it took a big battle to get a law in place to require labeling). I’m old enough to remember when you had no idea what was inside that soup can or cereal box.

For the last 15 years, the labeling fight has moved to other health issues such as salt, sugar, and additives. Even more recently, justice for humans, animals, and ecosystems has taken front page, so we can put our dollars where our morals are.

Well, that’s the hope, anyway. Unfortunately, manufacturers try to dilute this movement by using meaningless words like “natural” or giving false reassurance with phrases like “cage free.” As a result, some labels are truer and more meaningful than others. Earthwatch Institute put up a wonderful page not long ago with detailed assessment of 27 labels.

Here are some of the labels they consider reliable:

Bird-Friendly

Certified Humane Raised and Handled

USDA Certified Organic

Country of Origin

Dolphin-Safe from Earth Island Institute

Fair Trade Certified

Marine Stewardship Council

Rainforest Alliance Certified

Salmon Safe

And here are some that are questionable or frankly misleading:

Cage Free

Grass Fed

Hormone Free

Natural  or  All Natural

Pasture Raised

I encourage you to visit the Earthwatch page to get the details! That way, we can all support the genuine earth-friendly food producers and avoid the fakers.

Food, glorious food….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food is nature’s gift– well, nature and all the people who grew it and brought it to us. But we seem to be ungrateful, wasting about 40% of what we produce. Dana Gunders, writing for the Natural Resources Defense Council, reminds us that all this food represents the use of water, land, energy, and lots of chemicals that aren’t all good for us. As I wrote in The Green Foodprint:

There is no waste in nature. Every plant, animal, rock, and drop of water is broken down and reused. Fallen trees, leaves, the shells left by a nut-eating squirrel, and the fur or feathers left by a predator are recycled in the ecosystem, decaying and becoming soil in which new plants and animals can live and grow.

We humans have disturbed this cycle, taking unwanted material to landfills, where it is junked with old batteries, turpentine, plastic containers, and other unnatural trash to be sealed off for decades. Waste occurs at the farm, the factory, the store, and the kitchen. Thirty percent of food, worth $48 billion, is thrown away every year just by households. Wasting food also means wasting water. One hamburger, for instance, takes over 600 gallons of water to produce. Food sent to the landfill also generates methane, a greenhouse gas much more damaging than carbon dioxide.

Let’s learn from nature and eliminate the whole concept of waste. Some companies have already spotted the opportunity. In New Jersey, a new plant (creating local jobs) will put food waste into huge digester tanks with oxygen, microbes, and heat, to turn it into compost and fertilizer. Now that’s recycling to the nth degree!

What you can do:

✓ Serve yourself only as much as you’re likely to eat.

✓ Save and use leftovers.

✓ Learn new recipes for using them

✓ Compost the rest.

Are GMOs sustainable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the claims made when genetically modified food was put on the market in the mid-1990s  (over the objections of FDA’s own scientists, by the way) was that crops engineered to withstand pesticides would permit a reduction in the amount of pesticides used. That should have been good for the environment, right?

Yes, if it had lasted more than a few growing seasons. But in fact, pesticide use has gone UP by millions of pounds per year, and I bet you can guess why. It’s called evolution. As has always happened with pesticides, the target creatures (bugs, for instance, or weeds) are not all killed—the strongest survive and produce the next generation. It doesn’t take long for organisms with short life cycles to become resistant to the pesticide in question. Growers solve this problem by using more chemicals, or stronger ones. For years this has been called the “pesticide treadmill” that farmers can’t seem to escape. (Unless they switch to organic).

If that isn’t enough, pesticides are implicated in the mass deaths of millions of bees that pollinate our crops. That is definitely not sustainable!

Just last month a scientific study demonstrated that pesticide use has gone UP since GMOs were introduced. The author concluded, “Overall, pesticide use increased by an estimated 183 million kgs (404 million pounds), or about 7%.”

Show your support for food that is healthy for person and planet: Vote YES on Proposition 37.

Guess who the opponents of Prop. 37 are? Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, ConAgra, BASF (“The Chemical Company”), Syngenta, and their allies, who have put at least $30 million into deceptive ads to defeat Prop. 37 so they can keep earning billions by selling poison.

Vote YES on Proposition 37.

This weekend – World Vegetarian Day in San Francisco

This weekend in Golden Gate Park, the annual World Vegetarian Day will be celebrated. I’ve been to these events for years, and am always delighted to meet so many people who are choosing a healthy, compassionate lifestyle. Not to mention the tasty dishes, books, workshops, recipes, and much more. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, you are most welcome to attend.

Proposition 37 will be addressed, too. I’ll be speaking about it at 2.45 on Saturday, complete with slides, facts, and myth-busting. Once you learn the grim truth about how GMOs are harming our bodies and environment, you’ll be thrilled to learn the power of Proposition 37 and its countless supporters.

And if you like bluegrass music, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival is also being held in Golden Gate Park this weekend, so you can stroll over there after filling your tummy and mind with wonderful vegetarian options!

Be sure to allow extra time for travel and parking – there will be lots of activity in SF this weekend!

 When and Where: San Francisco County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park
1199 Ninth Avenue. Entrance at 9th Avenue at Lincoln Way, next to the Arboretum
$10 at Gate; Free for Children under 12, Students with ID, & Seniors over 65

Featured Events:
Children’s Corner, Green Lifestyle Film Festival, Healthy Food Demos with Recipes & Samples, International Speakers & Workshops, Live Entertainment, Vegan Cuisine to sample or buy, Urban Gardening.
Catered Vegan Dinners: Saturday & Sunday, 6:45 p.m. $26 each
Advance reservations: treasurer@sfvs.org