Recently in Sustainability Category

Anti-biotics and Pesticides

September 11, 2011

The organic-bandwagon (and "green" in general) can often seem like a holier-than-thou verbal assault to the average consumer who does not take production processes into account when making purchasing decisions. Moralizing and preaching from the crunchy-granola crowd is not appreciated. And yet there is a point to it all, and we granola eaters need to be armed not merely with facts but also empathy and moderation. That said, often times we are armed merely with anecdote and conjecture, not even fact. Two recent pieces of research present compelling additional facts behind American society's – and by extension, increasingly the world's – over-reliance on technology without consideration of the long term effects:

  1. Over-use of anti-biotics in children have been linked to increases in asthma, obestity, and various diseases; in response, we simply need to be much more careful about our use of anti-biotics, which are frequently employed as a placebo in viral cases. LA Times covarge, full essay is in Nature, whose August 25th podcast has a good briefing.
  2. Consumption of pesticide-tainted foods has now been found to be a risk-factor in development of ADHD; the clear response is to consume organic foods. MSNBC coverage

Pollan on Agricultural Antibiotics Risking Future of Public Health

December 17, 2007

The Way We Live Now: Our Decrepit Food Factories: This article is not terribly long, but it is incredibly cogent in its explanation of what sustainability really means and why we should be concerned with it. As a first order response, please consider purchasing only antibiotic-free meat. It is now pretty widely available in normal grocery stores, and I don't believe it has much of a premium over other meat. The FDA needs to stop this practice — I have sent them letters requesting that, via the Union of Concerned Scientists. In the meantime, we must reduce the impact whatever way we can as individual consumers.

100 MPGs

October 27, 2007

100 miles per gallon whilst downhill coasting. 25 MPG going up hill. Its still using gas. Its still not sustainable by any means — but more so than just about any other vehicle on the mass U.S. market. And now a Prius is in our driveway :-).

[Prius]

Conservation Reserve Program

August 7, 2007

Recently I came across an editorial analysis of the farm bills currently being legislated that began with a splenetic attack on its conservation reserve program and, in a non sequitur, ended with a relatively well-reasoned critique of the direct subsidies provided to growers of corn, wheat, soy, rice, and cotton. The arguments against these direct subsidies are plentiful, but this is the first time I've come across an argument against the conservation program.

Making Sense Out of Senseless Grocery Shopping

April 22, 2007

I recall one day in the spring of 2002, shopping at the H.E.B. grocery store on Riverside Dr. in Austin, TX, being struck by the horrible nutritional value on display on the conveyor belt before me. The shopping list seemed to consist primarily of donuts, chips, soda, and a few other items of questionable healthiness (white bread, milk, beef, no fruit, ...). Surreptitiously, I looked up at the woman buying these things, probably to feed her family (I don't remember thinking she seemed particularly overweight herself). I thought to myself, "what mother would feed these things to her child?"

Please tax me more! Seriously!

January 24, 2007

I am not an economic theorist. But sometimes I like to pretend that I "get" economics. And that I get political theory. So I'm going to talk about government regulations for a moment. If that sounds boring... well, yes it is, but these are things that make the world go round.

Wal Mart Promoting Lower Energy Consumption

January 2, 2007

Wal-Mart has decided to put their massive supply-management/manipulation machine to work promoting compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). CFLs are probably the most effective easy strategy for an individual to reduce their carbon footprint. They use a quarter of the energy and last at least four-times as long regular light bulbs (incandescents) &mash; and that means far less electricity and far less carbon dioxide created. The government Energy Star web site has a good overview.

Some complain that they don't like the light — well, you get used to it pretty quickly, and they've made great strides in improving the quality. Ikea has cheap/good bulbs, and they take the bulbs for recycling (that's the biggest drawback to these bulbs — like all fluorescents, they have mercury and should not be thrown into the garbage). If you care at all about the potential impact of global warming, then replacing most if not all of your bulbs with CFLs is a no-brainer.

What are you optimistic about?

November 27, 2006

WorldChanging passes on the meme "what are you optimistic about?". In the context of sustainability...

I'm not sure that optimism is the right word. Hopeful, yes, with a modicum of optimism... that "America" is finally starting to creep out of the negative energy well, with market forces, civil society, and even many religious groups beginning to embrace sustainability. Think of that first car on a roller coaster, when it finally reaches the top of an incline (a potential energy well). The cars behind it are still dragging it down via gravity, but there is just enough kinetic energy to pull it over the top — and then some.

The Sensitive Carnivore

October 24, 2006

Reading Meat Labels Hope to Lure the Sensitive Carnivore, one could be left with the impression that consumers simply do not care or are unaware of the differences between regular meat, organic meat, and other labels indicating better animal welfare practices. Judging by the shelves at my Midwestern grocery store, this is not the case. The free range chicken regularly sells out, while the organic and natural chicken does not. Free range buffalo sells better than the merely "natural" beef right next to it. A whole line of organic meats was recently pulled back off the shelf, or moved away from the free range, because people simply were not buying it.

Worldchanging Tour: Minneapolis

October 18, 2006

For those who don't know, WorldChanging is one of my favorite websites and a real inspiration when it comes to environmental/sustainability activism. The writers at WorldChanging have, for several years, been presenting countless stories that highlight the dangers of environmental inbalance — but more importantly, their site brings even more stories of solutions, both those already in use and those that we could be seeing in coming years.

They have a book coming out in a few days that has hundreds of pages of stories, solutions, ideas, etc. for overcoming the slew of environmental challenges we face. Its topics range from green design to smart growth, from clean energy to sustainable agriculture, from women's rights to corporate responsibility. The book features a forward by Al Gore and an introduction by noted futurist/sci-fi author Bruce Sterling. And now they're going on a book tour.

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