Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Biofuels -- let the wars begin

Even as the EU backs away abruptly from its previous biofuels usage goals in the face of ''soaring world food prices blamed partly on competition for farmland from agri-fuel producers'', agribusiness giants Monsanto, Dow and Archer Daniels Midland are joining forces to mount a lobbying crusade (worth millions, natch) on Washington to build a case for continuing and / or increased usage of biofuels.

From controlling the world's food to controlling the world's food and energy...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Vegan recipes featured in online media sources

The UK's Guardian features a recipe for Soba Noodles w/ Wakame today.  "Mmmm!  Slurpy wakame!" (OK, so reading that description in the article left my ears a'ringing with the voice of Homer Simpson.)  


Friday, July 25, 2008

Kim Honey's rabbit kill follow-up

After finding herself on the receiving end of expressions of outrage from vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, Toronto Star's Kim Honey next played the victim card, singling out the angriest comments in response to her article, calling them ''virulent'' and ''outright personal attacks'', perhaps to elicit sympathy or support.

As a result of this, even more readers chimed in on the whole thing.
The only people who seem supportive of her are those who are able to haphazardly call some animals pets and others dinner. Had a reporter covered a story about someone's taking a dog and bashing the pooch's skull in, all of the readers would be outraged. As one reader pointed out, yes, it's true that worse things happen in slaughterhouses. I think that the important point, however, is that Honey's piece was a completely unapologetic description of a brutal act; just because some people have an ''out of sight, out of mind'' mentality about where their meat comes from doesn't change that fact or make her article any more acceptable. That's just my opinion, though.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Plutarch and bunnies

A friend forwarded me a link to an article by Toronto Star food editor Kim Honey, who I think took the low road this week by playing the sensationalist (and insensitive) card by writing an article about wilderness survivalism that includes a description of her failed attempt to kill a rabbit and features a photo of her ''cuddling'' it before her survivalist instructor struck it three times to slaughter it. There seems to be this post-Pollan trend for food writers these days to try to prove their hipness through descriptions of intentions or acts of brutality -- displaying their attempts at so-called ''conscious eating'' by getting their own hands bloody. I hope the trend passes soon.

One of the last comments left on the Toronto Star's website was a quote from Plutarch's work Moralia that I thought was particularly fitting:

For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man [...] touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds? [...] We slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us, creatures that, I swear, Nature appears to have produced for the sake of their beauty and grace. [...] For the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vivisection up 6% in the UK from last year

According to statistics released yesterday by the UK's Home Office, vivisection in the UK is up 6% from last year. A total of just over 3.2 million animals were used. Most of the procedures (83%) involved rodents, and almost half of them were on genetically modified animals. Of the total, 3,125 were monkeys, 5,648 were dogs and 179 were cats. According to The Dr. Hadwen Trust, a leading medical research charity in the UK dedicated to finding alternatives to animal testing, 61% of those experiments were performed without any form of anesthesia.

Read more here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

MIA

I haven't been updating here much for the past while because my heart hasn't really been in it. I've been spending most of my time gawking at my rapidly growing heirloom tomatoes and trying to figure out the same old stuff most silly humans spend time trying to figure out when life events alter their respective courses. I've been avoiding the news -- a good brain break that reminds me of some of the reasons I ditched cable TV two years ago. I hope to pick up the pace again over the next few weeks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Baptist church cancels youth conference's gun giveaway

“I don’t want people thinking ‘My goodness, we’re putting a weapon in the hand of somebody that doesn’t respect it who are then going to go out and kill,'” said Ross. “That’s not at all what we’re trying to do.”

Ross said the conference isn’t all about guns, but rather about teens finding faith.

Hey fellas? While you're at it, why not try to entice them with a bag of crack or heroin? I mean, it's all about faith, right? Sheesh.

Read the rest of it here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

High oil prices and their impact on the US and Canada this month

Air Canada has cut more than 600 flight attendant jobs across the country and intends to cut up to 2000 in total. In the US, Northwest Airlines has slashed 2500 jobs and bumped up ticket and bag fees.

SUV and full-size pickup truck sales in the US are down almost 50% from what they were a year ago.

US schools are scaling back or cutting services because of fuel costs. More students will be walking farther when classes resume in September. More schools are shifting to four day weeks, and cutting bus trips for non-competitive extracurricular activities.

The Pray at the Pump Movement

I had to chuckle at this a bit.

The Pray at the Pump Movement, founded by Rocky Twyman, has been holding prayer vigils at gas stations across the country. On Monday, Twyman decided to take his movement from Exxon and Shell stations straight to the steps of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., hoping to encourage the oil-rich country to raise the amount of barrels they release each day from 200,000 to 1.2 million.

Twyman, who is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, spent the afternoon outside of the embassy praying and asking passersby to sign his petition for the release of more oil, which he hopes to deliver to the Saudi oil minister.


Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Old Sol

I found this story via Digg. Apparently, 90% of Israeli homes are equipped with solar water heaters. They started popping up when restrictions on hot water usage were imposed during an energy shortage, and now all new home builders are legally required to install them. Hawaii just passed a similar law. In places with lots of sunshine, it seems to be the economical thing to do, which is what made it logical for a country like Spain to develop solar power more extensively and to mandate its use in new and renovated buildings. (For those interested, here's more information on the different types of solar water heaters, their installation and their maintenance and here's some information on solar collectors in general.)

A Swiss company called Mindset AG has recently announced its own contribution to the mix of electric cars nosing their way into the market. It's still a prototype, but this one's a bit different from the rest -- it's solar powered. The company plans to sell around 10,000 of them next year if you're willing to part with around $78K. (via Inhabitat)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

USDA's recently updated chart of the growth of the adoption of GM crops in the US

Regardless of consumers' wariness of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), thanks to a lack of labelling (not to mention testing and regulating), more and more GMOs are being planted by US farmers and entering the food supply (or in the case of cotton, clothing supply).

This USDA chart
shows the percentage of planted acres grown that are GMO (it includes Ht soybeans, Ht corn, Bt corn, Ht cotton and Bt cotton). Here's another look at it. It's hard to believe that over 90% of all soybeans grown in the US are now genetically modified.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Looking ahead to a harsh winter

A while back, I'd posted about rising costs in home heating oil and how this was going to become a major concern for consumers sooner than later. At the time, most of the oil-related focus in the news was about prices at the gas pumps. Now that summer's well on its way, more and more articles are starting to pop up about this coming winter and the effect the ongoing spike in prices will have on those who heat with oil or natural gas -- particularly those in the Northeastern US and in parts of Canada. One option being tossed around in Maine (where 80% of homes are heated by oil) is to add a surcharge to the already ridiculously high heating oil prices and to have this surcharge fund energy efficiency programs. This might be useful to some homeowners, but people who rent their homes and who pay for their own heating oil but have no control over renovating their buildings or changing their heating systems would end up choosing between heat and food this winter to subsidize a program that wouldn't necessarily help them at all. It would basically penalize those who are most in need.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Leaked World Bank study asserts that 75% of recent food price hikes are due to biofuels

It's finally slipping into the mainsteam that biofuels aren't the panacea that Washington would like us all to think they are. They're actually worse, and it seems that continuing to pursue them as a viable alternative source of energy will invariably mean that more and more people will go hungry. As it stands now, food prices will almost certainly hike significantly over the next several months as price increases for raw materials end up trickling down to consumers who'll pick and choose 'em off grocery store shelves. I hope that this report has an impact on governments currently rolling in minimum biofuel content requirements in their respective countries.

Read the Guardian article on it here.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Britain's home gardens ruined by toxic aminopyralid-contaminated fertilizer

This story that's just started spreading in the news is frightening. This wasn't caused by home gardeners spraying herbicide on their soil. This herbicide -- aminopyralid -- was sprayed on grass that was made into food for cows and horses, and then made its way into their manure, which was then sold to home gardeners as fertilizer. The herbicide in question (manufactured by Dow) isn't meant to be used on food crops. It attacks broad leaf weeds, hence its devastating effect on plants like tomatoes, potatoes, etc. According to this (and a few other articles I've read on it during the past few days), contaminated soil should not be reused for a year, and contaminated manure should not be used for 2-3 to allow the herbicide to break down. This means that the gardeners in the UK who used the manure to fertilize their gardens have lost this year's harvest and won't be able to grow on the same land next year (most likely). Plus right now, authorities don't even seem to be sure of how to track the contaminated manure. I'm not sure of whether this stuff is widely used in North America.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bits and blurbs in the news about animals we call 'food'

Doug Moss had a short (but effective) opinion piece in emagazine.com a few days ago about how the majority of environmental leaders and advocates are still refusing to face (and address) the impact of the meat industry on the world around us. It reminded me of an opinion piece in the New York Times I'd read last summer that raised similar points.

Less than a year after a HSUS' investigation into downer cow abuse at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. slaughterhouse and meat packing plant in Chino, CA led to the biggest voluntary meat recall in US history, another investigation has revealed that the goings on there seem to have been the industry norm, rather than the exception. Ironically, a bill was defeated last Wednesday that would have required video surveillance in California slaughterhouses to prevent similar acts of cruelty in the future; slaughterhouse owners and meat industry lobbyists are no doubt relieved.