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Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Community Gardens: Growing Food Brings People Together

Tahree Lane, The Toledo Blade
… Community gardens “are taking off like mad,” says Vicki Garrett, projects coordinator at the American Community Gardening Association in Columbus. As food, gas, and household expenses soar, gardening is a low-cost hobby that offers big returns with safe, delicious food. The association estimates there are 18,000 to 20,000 such gardens in the United States and Canada.

“I think some cities have realized the value of growing food close to home,” said Ms. Garrett.

Locally, there are four acres in South Toledo with 88 large plots ($12 each), an upscale organic garden in a lovely riverside setting in Perrysburg, and a humble but productive strip of land abutting a freeway sound-barrier wall that’s been enriched by a group of apartment dwellers.

… Tending Taiwanese cabbage, New Zealand spinach, spoon mustard, and mache lettuce, Yvette Smith wonders why more Americans haven’t figured out the benefits of raising one’s own veggies.

“I really do believe this is something that a lot of people should be doing,” said Smith, who teaches French at the University of Toledo.

She and some of her neighbors who reside in six four-unit buildings on Carskaddon Avenue in West Toledo have the blessing of their landlord to till and plant a skinny, sunny strip between their garages and the freeway wall. Andy Huff, caretaker of the properties and a resident, said several years ago a tenant suggested adding flowers to spruce up the place.

“I said, ‘Sure, sure; I just want to cut the grass,’” said Mr. Huff. “Then I got a book on container gardening.” And he attended a library program on gardening and called Toledo Grows.

“It’s been great. It’s been social, a source of conversation. People say this reminds them of the Victory Gardens,” he said, referring to the patriotic gardens millions of Americans and others around the world planted during World Wars I and II.
(13 July 2008)
Also at Common Dreams.

The only diet for a peacemaker is a vegetarian diet

John Dear S.J., National Catholic Review
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last week to speak at the National Convention of Unitarian Universalists, I met my old friend Bruce Friedrich. We spent eight memorable months together in a tiny jail cell, along with Philip Berrigan, for our 1993 Plowshares disarmament action. A former Catholic Worker, Bruce is now one of the leaders of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He gave a brilliant workshop on the importance of becoming a vegetarian, something I urge everyone to consider.

I became a vegetarian with a few other Jesuit novices shortly after I entered the Jesuits in 1982 and later wrote a pamphlet for PETA, “Christianity and Vegetarianism.” I based my decision solely on Francis Moore Lappe’s classic work, Diet for a Small Planet, a book that I think everyone should read.

In it, Lappe, the great advocate for the hungry, makes an unassailable case that vegetarianism is the best way to eliminate world hunger and to sustain the environment.

At first glance, we wonder how that could be. But it’s undisputable. A hundred million tons of grain go yearly for biofuel — a morally questionable use of foodstuffs. But more than seven times that much — some 760 million tons according to the United Nations — go into the bellies of farmed animals, this to fatten them up so that sirloin, hamburgers and pork roast grace the tables of First-World people. It boils down to this. Over 70 percent of U.S. grain and 80 percent of corn is fed to farm animals rather than people.

John Dear is a Jesuit priest, peace activist, and the author of more than 20 books, most recently, Transfiguration (from Doubleday, with a foreword by Archbishop Tutu). Other books include You Will Be My Witnesses, Living Peace, The Questions of Jesus and Mohandas Gandhi. He has served as the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the U.S., and after 9/11, as a coordinator of chaplains for the Red Cross at the New York Family Assistance Center.

(8 July 2008)

Good Crop, Bad Crop

Christopher Flavelle, Slate
Once-lauded biofuels are now blamed for high food prices. But the next generation might yet work.

Biofuels have gone from savior to devil in a remarkably short period; only Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign or mortgage-backed securities can rival the speedy downfall of what was supposed to be a solution to the world’s energy crisis.

There’s no doubt that biofuels are the scapegoat du jour. On Monday, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said that subsidies and tariffs supporting biofuels “take food off the table for millions.” A British government report (PDF) linked biofuels to increased food prices and higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And the European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted to scrap its target of generating 10 percent of the continent’s transportation fuel from biofuels by 2020-a target set, with much fanfare, just last year.

A similar backlash is brewing in the United States.
(10 July 2008)