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Solutions & sustainability - Dec 4

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Enviros need to get social, says activist-turned-sociologist Marshall Ganz

Gregory Dicum, Grist
Most of us can probably name a grandfather or great-aunt who was active in a chapter of a national association. My own uncle was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Yet how many of us can say the same about ourselves?

As voluntary associations fade from our cultural landscape, political participation is threatened, especially on the left, says sociologist Marshall Ganz. And, he says, that trend is undermining the environmental movement, which has long depended on engaged members to carry its banner. That's why Sierra Club leaders recently turned to Ganz to figure out how to get people fired up again.
(2 December 2005)


True-blue green
Interview with Tory hopeful and environmentalist Zac Goldsmith

Stuart Jeffries, Guardian
Zac Goldsmith was chatting to the chief buyer for a supermarket chain recently. He was happy to learn that customers preferred English apples to those flown halfway across the world. What a marvellous saving in aviation fuel this trend could provoke, he suggested. The buyer shook his head. What Goldsmith didn't understand was that, before the apples arrive on our supermarket shelves, they are flown to South Africa to be waxed.

"Globalisation has changed the way we live massively and not in good ways," says Goldsmith. Since the World Bank was established in 1944, he says, there has been a 12-fold increase in global trade and a five-fold increase in economic growth. "Life expectancy is falling. Three billion people live on less than two dollars a day. Agricultural land is shrinking. Globalisation is responsible for all these things." According to the UN, he says, drought, deforestation, industrial agriculture and climatic volatility are responsible for the loss of 250m acres of fertile soil each year, undermining the food security of 1.2 billion people worldwide.

We are having lunch in a pizzeria in Chelsea farmers' market, a venue Goldsmith chose because most of its ingredients are supplied by an adjacent organic supermarket. "Anything that can be produced in Britain is sold there in preference to foreign goods," he says. The restaurant and shop are owned by a Persian man, who also owns a tobacco shop and a nightclub. Goldsmith, 30, the son of the late corporate raider and Referendum party founder Sir James, is a shareholder in this incoherent portfolio. "It's not really a business thing," he says, lighting a roll-up. Rather, he sees this kind of food as the future. "I get really excited about organic. People love it."

Why, you might ask, should we listen to the anti-globalisation opinions of an old Etonian, poker-playing plutocrat who runs a play farm funded from daddy's inheritance in Devon with his wife Sheherazade, the daughter of the socialite Viviane Ventura, edits a magazine called the Ecologist, founded by his uncle Teddy, and has not unreasonable expectations of becoming a Tory MP.
(3 December 2005)


Meat wall
(A Guest Commentary)
Steven J. Moss, San Francisco Community Power via ENN
You walk into a restaurant, the waiter escorts you to a wall of artificial meat and asks you to pick which square you want for dinner. Or maybe you grow your own meat at home, choosing from different flavor tablets to create sheets that taste like chicken, beef, or pork, ready to slide into your toaster oven for a quick meal. It may sound far-fetched, but scientists are actively working to find ways to easily produce fake meat. And with China’s demand for meat expected to double every decade, there will almost certainly be market for such a product.

The idea has its attractions. Livestock operations are a substantial pollution source, fouling the water and land. Cattle ranches continue to replace rain forest and other natural areas throughout South America. The world’s wild fish population is rapidly being depleted. And the intensive production of cows and chickens may contribute to emerging outbreaks of deadly human diseases, such as mad cow and avian flu. Not to mention the wide scale suffering imposed on animals destined for the oven. Artificial meat, cultured from single cells and produced in large quantities, could reduce the afflictions caused by the international meat industrial complex.

But artificial meat is not without its “ick” factor. The very idea of sheets of cells growing into something akin to meat is a bit creepy, in an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” kind of way. Of course a visit to a local slaughter house or sausage factory may be no less iky, and considerably more bloody.
(2 December 2005)
Ick! -BA


With the grain on the Hundred Mile Diet

J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, TheTyee.ca
Stalking barley and wheat, some of it 9,000 years old.
------------
Give us this day our daily bread. So says the Lord's Prayer, and so say James and I, fervently, having known its want on the 100-Mile Diet. Grain, we have discovered, is the Holy Grail in our little corner of the world. Ever since World War II, economies of scale have cloaked the prairies in grains, while farmers on the coast gave up their wheat for swathes of corn destined to feed dairy cattle. Or perhaps just to sow confusion, these days, corn seems most often to be fashioned into mazes.

But there are a few brave local farmers and artisan bakers who are looking for a way out of the maze that is the global economy. While my impression had been that wheat is fussy here, because of our near constant rain, I was recently reminded of the magic of micro-climates. Hamish Crawford, a farmer in North Saanich on Vancouver Island, owns four acres devoted to red spring wheat, and in 2002 he founded a wildly popular bakery, The Roost, that can turn out 32,000 loaves from this modest plot's annual harvest.

... "People can get excited about protecting parkland but now we need them to get just as excited about setting aside food land. The food land is critical," [brewer Michael Doehnel] says. "Maybe it will take some kind of disaster to wake everybody up."
(2 December 2005)


Dreaming big to keep America rolling

David Ignatius, Washington Post
...Try this thought exercise: Suppose a government plan could revitalize the automobile industry and the rest of the transportation sector, encouraging it to leapfrog several generations of technology; suppose this same plan could cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil to zero; and suppose, finally, that the plan could develop new technologies that would bump our economy to a higher growth path and foster U.S. economic leadership in the 21st century. Would that idea be worth exploring?

This strategy for revitalization was proposed last year in a study by Amory Lovins called "Winning the Oil Endgame: Innovation for Profits, Jobs and Security." It got too little attention at the time, but I found myself rereading it this week as I pondered the mess at GM and tried to answer the question posed by Verleger's Japanese friend.
(2 December 2005)


Green cities movement
Is Eugene on the bus?

Michael Cockram, Eugene Weekly News
The Green Cities Movement is an effort by local governments around the globe to deal directly with the environmental problems they face. As national governments, such as our own, stay the course toward environmental disaster, cities are left to deal with the results.

...Although Eugene lags behind many other cities, Mayor Piercy's administration has shown signs of positive change. The city has announced a partnership with three developers building green projects. The developers are given somewhat lightweight incentives such as a greased permit process and free technical advice — not exactly the big tax breaks that Hynix sucks up — but it's a start.

The city hasn't yet allocated real financial resources to promoting sustainable projects. And there is more they could do without spending much money. One move that should have been adopted years ago is to follow Portland's lead and require all new civic structures (such as the new City Hall) to be LEED certified. The U.S. Green Builders Council's LEED rating program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has become the standard in determining the sustainability of a project. Another is to increase tipping fees at the dump (also done by Portland) to encourage reuse and recycling.
(1 December 2005)
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