We’ve been talking about and supporting local food for years here at Seventh Generation. The general assumption has always been that the closer to home our food is produced, the better it is for the atmosphere largely because it’s traveled a whole lot less to get to our plates and so has a much smaller carbon footprint. But lately this idea has been challenged, and perhaps rightfully so.
By now we’ve all heard about the record-setting recall of a 143 million pounds of beef from the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing company and seen the deeply disturbing Humane Society video that prompted it. "I don't have reason to believe this is widespread." said USDA assistant administrator Kenneth Petersen in USA Today, referring to the images of workers torturing so-called “downer” cows in an attempt to get them to stand up and move to the slaughter line. While that particular practice may or may not be common, others like it are and conditions in giant industrial meat plants are generally dismal. Over the weekend, for example, White Rhino sent me this account about one man’s tale of life on a meat “production” line. It’s extremely difficult to swallow in more ways than one. While this kind of story tends to languish in unfortunate obscurity for reasons probably related to people’s desires to keep the suspected truth about their food at arms length, the beef recall was too big to bury. Now, as we always do after events like this, we’re having a national conversation to answer the question, “how do we make sure this never happens again?” What we should really be asking is “how did this happen in the first place?”
Continuing to wade through the accumulated digital clippings here at my perch in the Vermont clouds, where a foot and a half of snow over the last two days has made the task a bit easier by slowing life down considerably. So let’s continue with some more recent dispatches that have caught my eyes and ears of late…
You probably don’t know it (I sure didn’t) but our entire lifetimes and those of all other human beings throughout human history have been spent in the geological era called the Holocene, that period of time that followed the retreat of the ice age glaciers 12,000 years ago. Now, however, some geologists are suggesting that the Holocene Era is over and the Anthropocene Era has begun, a new geological age in which human activities not natural processes are the force responsible for shaping the surface of our world. It’s a semantic change, really, but it’s a very, very interesting notion, a bit of perhaps necessary symbolism if you will, that I think deserves some consideration if only for the attention it would bring to the tremendous impact people are having on the state of the Earth. We’ve now surpassed all of nature itself as the dominant force in the world. It’s the first time in billions of years of geological history that a single species has achieved such utter and overwhelming dominance. Truly we are as gods and surely that’s worth some discussion. Declaring the dawn of the Anthropocene Era would certainly be one way to start it.
Okay. This is just funny. And perfect. And brilliant. And you should watch it right now.
If news falls in the forest and no one is there to report it on the Inspired Protagonist, does it make a sound? Oh my, yes, my green philosopher children. It’s been roaring for weeks while I’ve been elsewhere. In fact, so much worth mentioning has been piling up in my digital in-box that I briefly considered tossing the whole thing into my virtual trashcan and starting over. Seemed easy than trying to wade through it all. But that’s a bit of a cheat and the losers would be you, dear reader. So I’m biting the informational bullet, sifting through it, and aiming to play catch-up over the next few days. Here goes…
Returning to the blogosphere after a refreshing holiday hiatus spent largely away from all issues green (‘cept for that tree in the middle of my living room…), I’m finding a lot of news and other items to catch up on. For no real reason other than it was the first thing I encountered this morning, I’ll start with this item, which I think aptly illustrates the dubious art of corporate responsibility misdirection.
Here’s the deal: A week or so before Christmas, ConAgra Foods announced that it was joining three other microwave popcorn manufacturers, General Mills, the American Pop Corn Company and Weave Popcorn Company, in removing a butter flavoring ingredient called diacetyl from their products. You may have heard about this. Workers at microwave popcorn factories have been suffering devastating lung disease that’s been traced to diacetyl fumes in the air where they work.
Truth is, I’ve always accepted the logic that local is best when it comes to produce. And local, organic is always even better. Andrew Martin, one of the New York Times best writers, takes a thoughtful step back
to examine those assumptions.
Do the strawberries that are transported in the back of a pick-up truck from three hours outside of San Francisco to a downtown farmers market have a smaller carbon footprint than strawberries that travel by tractor-trailer to a Chicago supermarket? Not necessarily. As with most things in life, the simple rules we crave do not necessarily hold up to scrutiny.
It’s Thanksgiving, the day set aside for celebratory feasting with friends and family, and that national moment when we all pause to consider just how sweet life is and just how lucky we are. That’s a good thing. It’s certainly something my family will be doing today, and here’s something else we’re going to do: visit Free Rice for a while and help feed some global neighbors who aren’t as blessed with plenty as we have surely been. The Free Rice concept is simple, fun, and good for your brain and the world it lives in. The web site gives you a word and if you can define it correctly you donate 10 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Program. That may not sound like much, but since going live in October, the site has generated donations of 3.2 billion grains. That’s tons of rice for hungry people around our planet and proof that when we each do a little, we can all do a lot. And on that note…
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all wherever you are!
Continuing the round-up of round-ups here. Clearing the table for the holidays, so to speak. Here’s what spilled onto my virtual desk when I upended my digital box of electronic news and related clippings.
I Am An Activist has a nice slide show from the October 23rd tribute to Anita Roddick. Not quite sure where this site is from or what it’s all about, but it’s got some worthwhile features in addition to the photos. It’s a nice tribute to Anita and, more importantly, it keeps her flame burning by helping us all continue her work on those causes she believed in so strongly.
Another interesting site recently stumbled upon is Playgreen, which purports to be a green wiki. The wiki thing can be a bit dangerous depending on how responsible it’s users choose (or not) to be, but in general I would have to say it’s a great idea that’s proving it’s worth. This wiki seeks to create the “biggest book on green living.” Opening that process to a nation of both formal and informal green experts could yield a powerful tool. Stay tuned…
Given my bunker’s currently remote and undisclosed location, I’ll probably have to wait for Netflix to drop it in my mailbox, but the new documentary film King Corn looks like one to watch. It’s popped up on my radar several times in recent days, which means the buzz must be building for this look at corn and farming and food and how they’re all coming together to kick us in the cob. Corn, apparently, is everywhere, and that’s not a good thing for a lot of reasons.
The film looks pretty amusing (I think it always helps to leaven the ugly with some funny) and it looks like its playing now in selected cities (read: not the one where I am). I’m guessing it’s worth a viewing on the big screen or the small, whichever comes first where you be.