common wealth

20 05 2008

I have a secret when it comes to the news. Usually when I drive to work with the radio on – CBC 1 or 2 because I don’t have the patience for commercials – the news comes on and I turn it off. Yes, I am someone who likes to consider myself informed and aware, but I turn the news off. Most times I can’t take it. My heart pounds when I listen to climate change stories, it gets war-torn up with stories of countries plotting against each other, and it bleeds when I hear about cyclones and earthquakes and drought-stricken countries. And don’t ask me about the polar bears. I bawl on cue when they land up in the news.

I hate this about myself. But when the news comes on, and I hear stories like that, I grow weak and feel powerless and lose my will to move forward – even when moving forward includes positive changes that help battle these calamities. So I turn the news off instead.

These past few weeks though, I’ve been reading Common Wealth by Jeffrey Sachs, as part of the Be a Bookworm Challenge over at Green Bean Dreams. Now when the news comes on, the horrifying details don’t drag me down. Instead there is a bigger picture that comes through it all. Mr. Sachs explains with startling simplicity, how the things that weigh heavy on my heart are all connected. Before I just knew enough to say that we are all connected, now I see direct links. Mr. Sachs is helping me to understand how overpopulation, climate change, and extreme poverty, among other things, are just different sides of the same coin.

So, only halfway through the book and already it seems clear to me – our common fate as a planet. I took that line right from his book. It echoes within me as I listen to the news these days.


you’ll never guess…

21 04 2008

You will never guess who else hit pay dirt! Ohhhh, the irony… I love it!!! LOL

Make no mistake, this HPD is the better deal. 😀

food vs. fuel Part III

7 04 2008

Right now, there is so much confusion about biofuels. Are they good? Are they bad? With food riots occurring around the world – including here, here, and here – the media has latched onto the food vs fuel debate that surrounds most biofuels. I admit – there are some very bad biofuels out there. BUT there is more than one way to skin a cat (YUCK!) so I am cautiously-but-still-very excited about this.

eat your dinner!

2 04 2008

Do you remember when your parents would tell you that you couldn’t leave the dinner table until you had finished your brussel sprouts-lima beans-or whatever else was leftover on your plate? And you would DAWDLE and wait until their backs were turned and try to hide the offending leftovers beneath your plate, or in your napkin, or under the table?

I remember those days, even though I am past them now. Brussel sprouts and lima beans have moved from the UGH category to the MMM MORE PLEASE category. But that doesn’t mean I always feel like finishing everything on my plate. I have a bad habit of making way too much soup in a batch. I’ll serve it for dinner, put as much as I can in the freezer, and bring the leftovers for lunch until it’s gone. Usually the last day of leftovers is the hardest to… excuse the pun… stomach. And on those days, I’ve been known to throw it out. Yep. Throw it out.

But lately, I’ve become acutely aware of the energy that goes into producing food. And energy has become a lot more valuable to me. That last bowl of soup didn’t ask to be last. And it is still a miracle of energy, just like the other bowls. Think of everything that went into producing that soup. If I look at just a small portion of the recipe, let’s say the onions. The seeds were purchased – which cost someone time and money; the seeds were planted – which cost someone time and effort; the area was watered and weeded and cared for – quite a bit of work, from what I understand. Then those onions were harvested – MORE work – driven to the farmer’s market (if the carbon footprint wasn’t obvious yet, you should be getting the hint around now); then I enter the picture with either a walk or a drive to the market – more time, money and carbon; lastly, I cook the onions to put in the soup – that takes energy too. And that’s just the onions.

Are you getting the picture? Well, I am. Suddenly I GET what wasting food really means. So eat your dinner! Or at least be aware of what went into its production – and save the leftovers until you’ll appreciate them.

what’s a cook to do?

1 04 2008

I’m often befuddled when it comes to the *right* thing to do from an environmental standpoint. My beloved and I have this ongoing discussion about whether to buy a new fridge. Sure the new fridge will use less energy than our current one. But does the production of the new fridge, and the waste of the old fridge make the reduced energy consumption worthless? It feels like a minefield sometimes. Like, should we boil water in an electric kettle or on a gas stovetop? Does a microwave really use less energy than my oven?

Well my friends, cooking help is here. Check out these tips on energy-wise epicure.

meat me in the middle

25 03 2008

I’ve been putting off writing this post since I started HPD. It usually makes people uncomfortable. So what, you say? Well, the problem with making people uncomfortable is that you risk alienating them. And it seems to me that alienating people is hardly a good way to achieve your goals. So the challenge is to walk that perfect line. Here I go:

A lot of people who have jumped on the local food bandwagon do so because they’re motivated to reduce their carbon footprint. I wonder though how many of them stop to think about the types of foods they are eating. Our carbon footprints are determined not just by where our food comes from, but also from what we choose to eat.

If you asked most people to describe a well-balanced meal, I’d be willing to bet that 95% of them would include meat as part of their reply. Meat is not the best choice though if you care about your carbon footprint. In November 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization published a report stating that the livestock sector creates more carbon emissions than transportation. But why isn’t anyone talking about this?

Dietary changes, such as vegetarianism and veganism, push us out of our comfort zone a lot more than simply shifting who we source our food from. It’s easy to walk by the South African apples in the grocery store, because you know you’re not denying yourself anything. You can get good apples at the local orchard. But giving up something? For most people, that’s a different story altogether. If you’re not ready to give up meat, perhaps you can start thinking of it as a treat, rather than a staple. This treat mentality could do a lot to change your footprint.

food vs. fuel Part II

13 03 2008

Forgive me, in my overzealous typing this morning, I wrote that oil derived from algae has 1000 times the production yield of corn- and soy-based ethanol. That number is certainly debatable – a more realistic figure would be 50 -100. And 50 – 100 times the yield is still huge, but I should have been more careful with my number-tossing.

Since that post, this post appeared on the WiredBlog Network, further emphasizing that corn-based ethanol is not the way to go. As many have pointed out, to get rid of the food vs. fuel debate, you have to remove food from the equation, and look at crops such as algae, jatropha, switchgrass and poplar.

Tomorrow – that’s Friday – you can listen to CBC’s Ontario Today to hear about how Ontario farmers are looking to corn-based ethanol as a cash crop. For anyone who can, I recommend you call in and ask the hard questions.