Daily Audio - AKG Sustainable Living Project episode #4 - Rainwater Harvesting

Friday, 26 March 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food revolution, a message from TED

Dear Global TED Community,

I need your help with something. This won't take long... but it's a big deal.

Today, Friday, TED Prize winner Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution comes to America. His show premieres on ABC tonight. The show is *awesome*. If people watch it, it's going to change their lives.

Here's what I need you to do:

  1. If you're in America, please watch or record the show. I promise you won't regret it. Here are the program times. Here's the trailer.
  2. Whether or not you're in the US, please encourage your American friends to watch. Forward this email to at least five people. They will thank you for it.
As a reminder, America, along with much of the rest of the world, is suffering an obesity epidemic. Millions of people are literally in danger of eating themselves to death. Jamie Oliver's food revolution tackles this head on... by helping families rediscover the thrill of delicious, healthy, freshly-cooked food. He is a magnetic spokesman for one of today's most important issues.

Please help make a TED Prize wish come true.

Very best,

Chris Anderson, TED Curator

P.S. While you're at it, please add your name to Jamie's petition. We'd love to get to a million signatures within the next six weeks.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Stinging Nettle, my favorite spring green

This time of year I walk through the local parks and check on my favorite nettle patches. We had a long cold winter this year and the little sprouts are only about 2 inches high, not high enough to escape being wee'ed on by dogs. Though they are tastiest when they are young, particularly picked and eaten raw, due to the dogs I'll have to wait for em to grow a few feet. I pick the top cluster, roll it in my fingers to disarm the sting, and pop it in my mouth, chew it well and always have some water, apple cider, or beer at hand in case a wayward stinging hair sticks in my throat. If you want to avoid the possibility of the sting, wear some gloves and pick the top 6 inches or so and bring em home and cook em like any greens, steam, boil, or saute. MMmm...mmm good!

And they are very good for you.
"People have been using nettles for food, medicine, fiber, and dyes since the Bronze Age. Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) has a flavor similar to spinach, and is rich in vitamins A, C, D, K, and many minerals including iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulfur. Nettles also provide chlorophyll and tannin, and they’re a good source of B complex vitamins. Stinging nettle also has high levels of easily absorbed amino acids. They’re ten percent protein—more than any other vegetable. " - Dawn Gifford

Read more from Ms. Gifford over at Farm to Table "Stinging Nettles are good for you"

Friday, 19 March 2010

Farmers Speak: Bust Up Big Ag

"There are 2 million farmers and 300 million consumers in the US. Standing in between are a handful of companies who control how food gets from one side to the other.

In 2010, the USDA and Dept of Justice are holding a series of hearings on this issue -- the matter of corporate concentration in food and agriculture. The first hearing was March 12, in Ankeny, Iowa. The night before, about 250 independent family farmers and community activists gathered for a town hall meeting to share their own experiences with big ag.

For more; www.bustthetrust.org "

Living off the land. It is a pretty sweet life.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Why grow your own food or The many problems with industrial agriculture

I recently received a request from an ex student of mine, now in college, needing a suggestion for a paper on sustainable agriculture. We ruled out genetic modification as others were covering that disaster, also water conservation was ruled out. What's left?
I quickly came up with many topics relating to the problems associated with Industrial Agriculture and only afterwards did I realize that I had neglected any suggestions relating to Sustainable Agriculture. I added those at the end. Looks like I need to focus on the positive a little more. Here is the text of the response to her request.

There are so many issues with industrial agriculture. Here's some off the top of my head;

If you want to deal with the nitrogen cycle and overfertilization you can look at it's contribution to climate change as nitrous oxide is 300X more potent as a greenhouse gas. Or you could look at the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and other river mouth oceanic areas around the world largely attributed to excess nitrogen runoff, again from overfertilization. There is also the issue that the nitrogen in chemical fertilizers break down and dissipate into the water table, atmosphere, rivers, far faster than organic fertilizers such as manure and compost.

A related issue is factory farming of livestock and it's link to the development of superbugs and the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics, not to mention the issues of cruelty.

Of course there is the well trodden issue of food miles with it's related issues of chemical use to keep food from ripening, thus drastically reducing nutritive content and exposing the populace to the excess pesticides used. Clearly Food miles also has implications to climate change and peak oil as it so heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

Another heavily debated issue is the energy balance in corn ethanol and the the effect this industry is having on food prices as it furthers the damaging effects of the commodification of food (an issue in and of itself).

There are social justice issues having to do with the treatment of migrant labor, the destruction of the family farm, and of course the effects of climate change which impacts the poor disproportionately. A little known fact is that Industrial agriculture is one of the largest contributors to climate change on the planet when you factor in the deforestation involved with palm oil plantations and cattle ranches. Even without that it is one of the highest emitters in North America.

You could look at the estrogenic effects of the plastics used in food packaging, both on humans; girls reaching puberty much earlier, and on the feminization of various aquatic species. Other issues include;

Pesticides in the water table, specifically atrazine.
Corporate control of government regarding agriculture
(the subsidization of agribusiness via the farm bill)
Damage done to biodiversity via habitat loss and chemical usage.
The epidemic of obesity and diabetes since the widescale promotion of High Fructose corn syrup and it's leptin suppressing qualities.
The reduction in depth and quality of soils worldwide.
Farmer suicides worldwide, worst in India.

I can recommend you check out Rodale and the Organic Consumers Association for research and links to take you the other direction in investigation of positive alternatives, of which there are many.

Advantages of Organic Agriculture include;
carbon sequestration, superior nutrition, enhanced biodiversity, reduced food miles (if done that way), increased local resiliency (again if kept local), less reliance on fossil fuels, reduced reliance on medical infrastructure due to better nutrition and reduced farm related poisoning, protection of the water table, builds soil rather than destroys it, ....

You could also explore alternative agricultural technologies; foot powered water pumps, keyline design, permaculture, biogas production, composting, rainwater harvesting and storage, bio dynamics, biointensive, ....

Check out Appropedia and Agroinnovations sites.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Rabbits, not just a garden menace, they are food.

We've been considering rabbits as livestock for some time check out this post over at the Good.is blog. Thanks to Re-Nest for the heads up.
Also, keep a look out for Dolly Freed's Possum Living. She inspired me over twenty years ago to pursue simplicity in all forms, she and her dad kept and ate rabbits and she goes into detail about how they did it. It's good to see this practical suggestion here. I will likely give this a try when we get settled in America, though I'm not sure I'll be able to kill them, rabbits are also excellent lawnmowers and they fertilize as they go.