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More on Bee-ing and Nothingness

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Author: the Inkslinger

Several interesting developments on the bee front in recent days. For one thing, it’s been gratifying to (finally) see the mainstream media pick up the story. Seems like it took forever, but the issue (and a fair amount of its seriousness) is at last being communicated by TV, newspapers, and other conventional media outlets. People are talking about it. Attention is being focused. That’s a good thing because that’s how action happens. If nobody knows or cares about a crisis, it generally isn’t treated like one.

So the public eye is opening on the fate of the honey bees. But you won’t yet find the real eye-opening news in USA Today or on CNN. Instead, what would seem to bee the big story can be found a report published on the Organic Consumers Association website from the Guerilla News Network.

It says that unlike their captive specially-bred cousins, organic bees doing fine. There are no reports of the so-called colony collapse disorder in organic hives. The scary weird die-off is only occurring among factory-farmed bees living in conventionally maintained hives

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The Unbearable Darkness of Bee-ing

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Author: the Inkslinger

We’re getting worried about the bees. And not just about the bees but about what the bees are trying to tell us.

If you haven’t heard, honeybees are mysteriously disappearing. Whole colonies just vanishing like some apian Roanoke. It’s deeply weird. All the worker bees in a hive fly off for a day’s work and never return. No bodies. No clues. No bees.

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This is Your Pet. This is Pet on Pet Food…

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Author: the Inkslinger

Dog and cat food is in the news. Bad gluten. Dead pets. Too many tainted brands to count. No doubt you’ve seen at least the headlines. Pet people and animal lovers are up in arms, but here’s the thing (and the dirty secret)… Contaminated ingredients or not, most if not all commercial mass-market pet food is utter crap. Even on a good production day, I’m firmly convinced that it’s just about the worst thing for our animal co-conspirators. You don’t want to know what it’s made from. And you sure don’t want to be feeding it to Fido. (Say… what exactly is in that “meat by-product” anyway?)

My recommendation? Make your own. Really. It’s easy. It’s cheap. It’s guaranteed safe and healthy. And pets love it. I have a 13-year old Australian shepard

who has eaten nothing but handmade chow for the last 12 years. And of all the dogs that I know that were born around the same time, she’s the only one left. Anecdotal, yes. But all the others didn’t die of happy old age. They went early. And cancer was just about the universal cause. My pup was the only one eating a homemade diet of human-grade food. She’s still spry as you could hope for. Evidence enough for me.

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Periscope Up…

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Author: the Inkslinger

Midweek arrives. Time for a scan of the distant horizon to spot approaching signs and incoming indications. Must peer out into the virtual firmament and across the murky ether that separates tomorrow from today to see what may soon come this way. Is the periscope predictive? Perhaps. Even the biggest of changes starts with the smallest of whispers. But not every whisper becomes a shout. We can only listen, watch, and wait, and navigate the waters immediately ahead to the best of our ability and on the course that the persicope at present says will steer us closer to truth and how to act upon it. The view may change. The course may need correction. But for now, this is what the eyepiece sees…

San Francisco’s got a brand new bag. And it better be biodegradable. Definitely an idea to get to-go and carry elsewhere.

To bee or not to bee, that is the question. The other question is whether or not genetically modifed crops are what’s causing them all to bee gone.

Low impact!? What about no impact? Let’s hope it won’t come to that or this, that we’ll find a way to do sustainably rather than do completely without, but an interesting experiment in possibilities nonetheless.

Oops! They did it again! Reticent [insert type] industry cites [insert bogus self-sponsored study] and says [insert latest necessary good idea] will cost way too much to do. [Insert type] industry is soon proven [insert adverb] wrong by [insert organization name] which found [insert actual facts]. Bet you won’t find that on any label…

Wait a minute… I thought soap was supposed to be clean! Guess it depends on what’s inside. (Go here for the source of all the suds.)

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Rules to Eat By

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Author: the Inkslinger

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine featured a great article by Michael Pollan about how hard it is to eat these days. By that he means that we’re flooded with information about our food choices even as those food choices proliferate, and more often than not as soon as we get used to one new idea about what to eat and why another study comes down the pike to refute it.

This, Pollan says, is the result of nutritionism, a new kind of dietary ideology that has us more focused on what’s in our food than we are focused on simply eating the right foods themselves.

It’s an interesting idea, and it seems like a good one. You know… if we just focused on the broad overview of eating a fundamentally healthy diet, the rest would largely take care of itself and we wouldn’t have to worry about omega oils, and phtyochemicals, and flavonoids, and folate etc. etc. etc. They’d just be there because we were eating the way nature intended. To help us, Pollan provides a great list of rules to follow that demands to be shared. Here’s a quick semi-paraphrasing:

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“Today Show” Organic Product Segment Is So Yesterday

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Author: the Inkslinger

Special thanks to friend and customer Jack, who alerted us last night to a segment on yesterday’s Today Show about organic foods. As Jack noted in his e-mail to us, the 6-minute piece contained plenty of debatable points. I watched it last night and agree. I’d add that it also just about completely missed the boat on many of the most important aspects of organic food. In general, the segment felt more like sloppy fluffy filler than a serious news report seeking to actually inform the public.

But here’s the kicker… Jack writes:

“At the end, the reporter referred to a 7th Gen package on the counter and said, "Do we really need organic toilet paper?" followed by laughs in the studio.

You can watch the segment here. (The Seventh mention comes in the last few seconds.) Afterwards, if you feel so inspired, you can head over to the discussion thread for this segment on the MSNBC forums and drop off your opinions. Jack’s spot-on comment there drew a big round of virtual applause here in Vermont:

“Ha Ha Ha - Funny joke at the end about "organic" toilet paper. The toilet paper on the counter, Seventh Generation, is not Organic. This shows how ignorant most people, including those that are supposed to actually study and report on these issues, are regarding natural and organic products. The issues discussed in the story are important, but are not the only ones germane to natural products. For example, many toilet papers come from virgin trees harvested from the Boreal Forest/Circle which is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world. Without these trees, no amount of toilet paper in the world will clean up the do-do we'll be in as a planet. Nice "reporting" Today.”
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Natural & Organic Is Not Always the Best Choice

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Let's be honest: Aside from the fact that "natural" is a nice idea, it's a term that can nonetheless be applied to anything from nuclear energy to cigarettes. And "organic", while now representing a wonderful system that finally has clear regulatory guidelines, is still not a “whole” idea and an end unto itself.

Why? Because an organic soda filled with lots of organic sugar is still bad for your health just as an organic burrito loaded with organic salt is giving your body things it doesn't need.

So who comes along to reinvent things and create a new paradigm we consumers can use to find food that's really good for us? Not your friendly natural food store – but Hannaford, a large grocery store chain here in the Northeast. They’ve just launched their Guiding Star program, which rates 27,000 of the food products the company sells on their health and nutritional values. The system gives no stars to the least healthy products on Hannaford shelves and three stars to the best. Of the 27,000 products that were plugged into Hannaford’s formula, 77 percent received no stars. This system, while far from perfect, is a huge step forward in looking at healthy eating from a more holistic point of view.

Why do we need it? Because labels and claims like “fair trade,” “not-tested on animals,” “non-toxic,” “low-fat,” and “heart healthy,” to name just a few, don’t tell the whole story nor do they incorporate the whole impact the product bearing them can have on your health. There’s more on the program in the New York Times, but for now all I can say is way to go Hannaford!

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Is Organic a Myth?

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No, but…

Business Week’s cover story on The Organic Myth continues to stir up a debate that first appeared in the mainstream press when Michael Pollan (an excellent writer who went to the same grade school as I did at the same time!) wrote a terrific book, and an excellent article, and provoked a debate of sorts in the New York Times.

He was among the first to challenge the impact of Wal-Mart’s entry into the organic food market and ask whether it’s better to buy local than organic and what benefits organic food really brings to the table when it’s being shipped half way around the world.

Business Week reveals more information about the industry that I, for one, find troubling. “Sometime soon a portion of the milk used to make that organic yogurt may be taken from a chemical-free cow in New Zealand, powdered, and then shipped to the U.S. True, Stony field still cleaves to its organic heritage. For Chairman and CEO Gary Hirschberg, though, shipping milk powder 9,000 miles across the planet is the price you pay to conquer the supermarket dairy aisle. ‘It would be great to get all of our food within a 10-mile radius of our house,’ he says. ‘But once you're in organic, you have to source globally.’"

This debate is complex but important. The Business Week cover story is a sad statement about the media’s need to get attention to sell magazines. Organic, for all the challenges it faces is no myth. In fact, the USDA certification program is a rare regulatory success at a time when the current White House administration is dismantling decades of hugely important environmental legislation.

My advice? Buy locally grown food when ever possible, and when local isn’t available buy organic, but ask where it came from first!

There’s more at Grist.

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How to Be Better and Do Better

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My recent post about roadkill and global warming generated some thought-provoking comments, among them this note from fellow inspired protagonist Kevin:

Jeffrey, if you eat meat despite the evidence that a meat-based diet is non-sustainable, how then can we have hope about the future of ethical consumerism?

To shed light on the answer, Stanford's Center for Social Innovation recently came out with an interesting report.

There may be a fundamental disconnect in the marketing of socially responsible products. It is the difference between what people say they want, and what they actually buy.

http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/the_other_csr/

If you have the time, I would certainly appreciate hearing your response.

I was going to post my reply here simply as a comment on the original post, but then I thought that maybe it deserved to be a post of its own. So here goes…

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Road Kill and Global Warming

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The truth is that even though I was a vegetarian for 13 years, some years ago I lapsed in my commitment and returned to eating meat. Recently as part of my passion to reduce my own CO2 emissions, I read that on average eliminating the consumption of meat will save as much CO2 as switching the car you drive to a Prius. For most of us driving and eating meat account for about half of our total emissions. (The calculation is based on the energy used to grow the feed for a cow including the fertilizer, the methane emitted by the cow, the transportation of the meat, ect.)

As I was sharing this with a coworker we’ll call the Cowboy, he told me that it’s not an issue for him as he kills his own meat, occasionally eats road kill, and has even been known to take advantage of the occasional wayward bird that mistakenly makes its way into his office. (Remember – we’re in Vermont!) When and if he buys meat in a store, he makes sure it’s local and organic!

I’m don't know what I’m going to do, but I'm sure it won't involve hunting or eating road kill.

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