Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Food Justice

I listen to Radio Ecoshock on a fairly regular basis while I'm doing less writing-intensive tasks at work. Today I'm listening to this wonderful interview with activist-turned-author Nick Saul, who founded Stop, a radically revisioned food bank in Toronto. 

Here's the quotation about 20-25 minutes into the interview that encouraged me to blog about it:

"How do we move from a consumer-led revolution to one that is about building food citizens?" 

If food is supposed to be sustainable, does this mean that food is a right? Who is responsible for making sure human beings are adequately fed? Where's the justice, and how should and do we effect it? Can we grow food closer to home? Distribution and income inequality are complicated, sticky things. How do we engage in conversation about them?

I look forward to reading Saul and his wife/co-author's book The Stop soon. Saul recognizes his own privilege. He's always lived in privilege, from his childhood in Tanzania as the son of academic parents through his success as an adult. He doesn't make too many huge sweeping statements that I find particularly controversial, but he does tell about how he's seen that people want to be more involved in food. They don't want to just get food stamps or go to the food pantry; they want to participate in it and live in dignity. 

Other books I've read that come to my mind as semi-related to this:
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (and her daughter and husband)
- Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Food justice is fascinating, and it's one of those universal things that will eventually affect everyone. It's so tied into my general passion lately about the scarcity of resources (and the way we're destroying the biosphere by exploiting those resources in faster, flagrant, and more brutal ways). I'm excited to attend a free lecture on campus next week about food policy. I intend to take notes and probably write a scathing review and reflection about it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Guy McPherson explains it all

Check it out!

"The series of solutions [put forth by Al Gore, for example] is completely mismatched to the crisis."

"Changing your light bulbs is not going to save the day with respect to climate change. The only thing that can save us from climate change is termination of the industrial economy."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Crisis of Civilization.7

Today I read pages 73-87. In it, Ahmed did the following:

  • put the final nail in the coffin of oil. Peak Oil has happened. Now we get to deal with decreased supply. This will eventually mean lower demand and/or higher prices. And we'll look for other fuel sources, as we have already begun to do. These include:
  • (talked about) coal, which is growing more expensive. It is dangerous. Even the "clean" stuff emits CO2 in its mining. Assuming that demand stays what it is (and it won't - as we run out of oil, we may rely more on coal; and world demand is increasing as the economy expands, albeit more slowly), we're looking at no more than 120 years of coal. Real estimates are far lower;
  • (talked about coal) natural gas - same deal. This one is especially inefficient. The oil inputs to produce natural gas are pretty steep. It's inefficient. And it's unsustainable. We're looking at about 100 years' worth of this stuff, too - maximum. And, like I said, demand is likely to increase one way or another;
  • (explored the question) what about nonconventional sources like tar sands (super inefficient and really tiny dividends - p. 82)
  • (explored) or shale - same thing, not to mention incredibly water intensive and natural gas intensive.
  • (declared) In short, "unconventional oil sources are simply irrelevant" (82).
  • (inquired) Well, what about nuclear? It has several problemsL
    • waste reprocessing costs are in the billions
    • the waste can be easily used for weapons
    • reprocessing is unsafe and inefficient in practice (84). This is based on reproduction in the US, UK, and other countries so far. It's empirical stuff.
    • Nuclear isn't carbon free. Carbon dioxide is emitted at all points in the cycle (extraction, processing) EXCEPT the actual fission.
    • sources - the US Army Corps of Engineers says we'll run out uranium in 20 years at current levels of demand. Yes, that's only the new stuff. We can reuse once-spent uranium, but then it becomes a lot more expensive to extract energy from and less energy is produced. Diminishing returns and all that.
Next up: "Renewable Energy: A Primer" (still in Ahmed's book)
As alarming as this news is, I'm still pretty excited!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New York Times Blogarticle on Being Busy

This article is ridiculously awesome.

Favorite quotations (for those too busy to read the whole thing):

"Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work."

"Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day."

"Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration - it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done." 


I'll let you know when I start taking this advice ... ;-)