Solutions & sustainability - Nov 26
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Taking back our food system
Jeff Voltz, Seattle Times
WE Americans are fortunate to be living in a country where there is ample opportunity to take plenty of things for granted. We look in our refrigerator and exclaim, "Oh, we're out of apples. Better go down to the store and pick some up." Do we pause to wonder, "Who grew these apples? Where and how were they grown?"
Judging from the rapid growth in organics and farmers markets, many of us do care about where our food comes from. But do we have a food system that reflects these values?
During the 20th century, our society migrated from the country into the cities. In 1900, 40 percent of our country's population farmed. In 2000, only 2 percent were farming. One consequence of fewer local family farms is that the average grocery item we buy today has traveled 1,500 miles. We are becoming more and more disconnected from our food and the land and people that produce it. This is costing us and it is threatening our food security.
Washington state is one of the most bountiful producers of food in the nation but we don't reap all the economic benefits we should from our agricultural system. Take apples — we are the largest producer of organically grown apples in the country, and yet, there is no packing or branding of organic applesauce occurring in our state. The majority of our fruit is sent to other states to be retailed or processed. Or it is juiced, mashed or pulped, and then sent to another state to be packed.
Because of the way our current food system is structured, the majority of the value of a product is realized first by the retailer, followed by the branding and marketing companies, then processors, brokers and transportation. The farmers get what little is left...
Jeff Voltz was CEO of PCC Natural Markets for nine years and currently serves as executive director of Farming and the Environment, a nonprofit organization working for the ecological and economic health of agricultural lands and rural communities in Washington,
(24 November 2005)
That's not trash, it's dinner, "freegans" say
Desmond Butler, Associated Press via Seattle Tiimes
NEW YORK — Dinner shared by a group of friends at a well-appointed Greenwich Village apartment featured eggplant Parmesan with a salad of mixed greens and avocado dressing. The guests already had snacked on hors d'oeuvres of smoked mozzarella and crackers.
Not bad considering the diners find their food by digging through garbage. They call themselves "freegans," a play on the words "free" and "vegan" — vegetarians who avoid all animal products, including dairy. In an ideological rejection of consumer waste, they only eat food that's been discarded. And in New York, at least, they never go hungry.
(25 November 2005)
No-flush urinals just waiting for plumbers
Bob Pool, LA Times
Industry group has stalled on endorsing the waterless devices, calling them health hazards.
Standing in the men's room at the Cal State Northridge student union, no one would think that the long fight over the waterless urinal is about to come to a head.
The flush-free fixtures hanging on the restroom wall look good. The place smells good. The users' reviews sound good.
"They seem clean and you don't have to flush them and I like that," said Philippe Van Nieuwenhuyse, a sophomore business-law student. "I always hate to flush with my hand. A lot of germs can collect on one of those handles."
It's hard to believe that the ordinary-looking urinal is at the center of a national debate that has plumbers and water conservationists taking aim at one another.
The skirmish could take a new turn today when the country's largest plumbing industry advisory group intends to reveal whether it is finally willing to endorse the water-free urinal.
...Conservationists say the average no-flush urinal can save as much as 24,000 gallons of water a year. They say that the liquid sealant keeps dangerous bacteria as well as bad smells from the restroom without a need for water.
But plumbers argue that the devices could spread diseases such as cholera and severe acute respiratory syndrome and emit deadly sewer gas into restrooms — allegations both conservationists and manufacturers strongly dispute.
(23 November 2005)
The need for a more powerful/energy efficient Internet
Tom Foremski, Silicon Valley Watcher via Always On
Who will build the new internet? It's already being built
...Let's consider what would be the most important characteristic of a successful new internet: It would have to be compellingly better and cheaper than the old internet, by several magnitudes preferably. And if we were designing a new internet today, it would look nothing like the patchwork of systems in use today.
The design of a new internet would mandate using the highest cost performance IT architecture available, which means industry standard hardware, open-source software components, and a fair amount of Big Iron--large computer systems to handle large computational problems more efficiently than clustered smaller systems.
And the design of a new internet would require special attention to electric power consumption because energy costs are now a large factor in cost/performance calculations. And those costs will increase as we move further from peak oil production.
Individuals, companies, countries, are all seeking to lessen exposure to energy prices and supplies. Because the consequences of being over-exposed raise costs in a world where competitive leadership is all about being the lowest cost/highest quality producer/provider. Not to mention the disruption to trade and society from wars over energy resources.
(23 November 2005)