Sunday, March 30, 2008
An ancient bush reigns,
Upon the misted hills of China,
Stone trails nearly forgotten,
Walking a way of antiquity.
Can you taste the world or the sky?
Ten days of weather in a basket of leaves and buds,
How high a bush sits on the hill,
What lies far beneath our feet,
How did hands move - long or fast or gentle?
A family art as fine as butterfly wing breezes.
Everything modern can move mountains,
Dead dirt and dull uniforms,
Machine-printed cheap art for the masses,
Careless rush of rough touch.
Stubborn - the seeker of ancient heart.
Masterworks revived from the crush,
Uniqueness in a land of conformity,
Living tradition tied to nature,
Poetry in cupped hands and scent.
Taste it - it's a tea-cup universe that awaits.
By: Daniel A. Stafford
Upon watching the documentary film "All In This Tea," I was touched by the sheer poetic beauty of the ancient hills of China, covered in fields of tea bushes. For centuries, master tea makers have captured the nuances of location, weather, tradition, soil, and water in small cups, allowing the pass one's lips as liquid art. Every detail of environment is captured in each cup, every scrap of a bundle of tea's history blends with the water that makes it, and tells an intricate story in flavor to those who may listen.
Nearly overpowered and under threat of extinction by vast commercialization in the form of mass tea exporters, this was feared a dying art. Through the efforts of a man from the West who knew the true flavor of honestly authentic hand-made teas, a hole was pushed through the wall. A new way opened up for the art to survive, and thrive.
From the factories to history to the smallest hand-crafted details and most ornate ceremonies, this is the visual poetry of tea's truth, and how it is both coming home to China and appearing in America. As a cup of tea warms the hands, "All In This Tea" warms the heart, with knowledge and hope.
See it on the Sundance Channel Tuesday, April 29th at 9:35 pm Eastern and Pacific.
Publisher - The Great Lakes Zephyr - Wind Energy & Hydrogen Journal
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Basically, most large farms these days only grow a few varieties of vegetables, ones that look good on the grocery store shelves and resist spoilage longer. These varieties are not bred for taste or nutrition. This is why tomatoes don't taste like they did when you were a child. It's not your taste buds getting old, it's the food you're eating getting more tasteless.
I received 50 seeds each of Czech's Bush tomato, Black Krim tomato, and Isis Candy Cherry tomato.
These three types of tomato all take less than 80 days from transplant to fruit bearing, which is why I chose to grow them in Illinois.
Biodiversity and local foods. It's a start. Now to get the seedlings started.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Runtime approximately 30 minutes.
Featuring comments by environmental activists David Suzuki, this episode of the Sundance Channel's spring series for The Green, "Big Ideas For A Small Planet," Power covers the three major players in renewable energy.
Beginning with solar energy, the documentary uses the Washington DC annual "Solar Decathlon" as its example of what is going on in the world of solar energy. While focused on solar housing, the event coverage gets into enough of the underlying technologies to grant the viewer a good basic understanding of what can be done, and graphically displays how beautiful and unique solar housing can be. The event itself features many solar homes designed and built by teams from universities all over the world that compete on several levels.
Continuing on with wind power, Power focuses mainly on one wind farm development in a former coal town as its example, and covers the basics of the titan of renewable energy technologies that wind power has become. The documentary gives a good overall view of the issues and challenges facing the wind industry, as well as the benefits of successful wind development. The graceful cinematography in this segment for the most part was appealing. Wind power is the fastest-growing and most cost-competitive renewable energy technology to date, and thus rightly deserves our attention.
Finishing with biomass power generation, specifically methane digester-produced electricity on a dairy farm, Power rounds out the big three of renewable energy quite well. I was especially pleased with the coverage in this segment, as details of methane digester electricity production are not as readily available as those for wind and solar power. As with the other two segments, Power used a specific example of one farm's installation to illustrate its case. One gets a good sense of the daily operation of this system and how it fits into the farmers' lives and routine.
In all, the film is solid, and gives a good general knowledge of the three most-viable renewable energy sources currently in use. Power also manages to touch on some of the future potential of these technologies. Given the limitations of a thirty-minute time frame, the film packed as much as was possible in so short a time, leaving this viewer interested enough to seek out more details. If you are at all interested in caring for the planet without sacrificing comfort and modern technology, I STRONGLY recommend catching Power on the Sundance Channel on Tuesday, April 1st, 2008 at 9pm Eastern and 9pm Pacific.
Best of all, this film is solutions-oriented, rather than just presenting a problem. That is something we always need more of.
Publisher - The Great Lakes Zephyr - Wind Energy & Hydrogen Journal
Organic Bytes #131:
ORGANIC BYTES #131
Health, Justice and Sustainability News Tidbits with an Edge!
Written and edited by Craig Minowa and Ronnie Cummins
IN THIS ISSUE:
- ALERT OF THE WEEK: END MODERN-DAY SLAVERY IN U.S. FIELDS
- ALERT UPDATE: OCA THREATENS TO SUE BODY CARE COMPANIES FALSELY LABELING THEIR PRODUCTS AS ORGANIC
- GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: WAL-MART GOES rBGH-FREE
- U.S. GOVERNMENT PLUNDER OF THE WEEK: FEDS SLAUGHTER OF WILD BISON BEATS 20th CENTURY RECORDS
- QUOTE OF THE WEEK
- TAKE ACTION ON PESTICIDES AND FARM BILL
- WEB PROGRAM OF THE WEEK: INTERVIEW WITH CANADIAN FAMILY FARMER WHO DEFEATED GOLIATH MONSANTO
- QUICK FACTS OF THE WEEK: A NATION BUILT ON UNSUSTAINABILITY - FUEL, FOOD, AND DEBT
- SUSTAINABILITY TIPS OF THE WEEK: ON THE EVE OF PEAK OIL- HOW TO CUT FUEL COSTS
- BOOK OF THE WEEK: FAREWELL, MY SUBARU
ALERT OF THE WEEK:
END MODERN-DAY SLAVERY IN U.S. FIELDS
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA)-- representing over 850,000 consumers across the U.S. -- has joined a growing alliance in support of the Florida-based Coalition for Immokalee Workers' campaign to “End Slavery and Sweatshops in the Fields.” While the organic and sustainable agricultural movement has traditionally focused primarily on health and environmental issues, the time is long overdue to integrate Fair Trade and worker justice issues into our alternative food and farming system. Consumers need to understand that much of the so-called “natural” food and produce, such as tomatoes, sold in natural food stores like Whole Foods are actually coming from chemical-intensive farms where low wages and labor exploitation are the norm. Please join this growing campaign. Click here to sign the petition. http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_11123.cfm
Look for the USDA Organic Seal when shopping for organic personal care products
OCA THREATENS TO SUE BODY CARE COMPANIES FALSELY LABELING THEIR PRODUCTS AS ORGANIC
As reported in the last issue of Organic Bytes, OCA's new expose on carcinogens found in various products misleadingly labeled as "organic" and "natural" is sending shockwaves through the personal care industry. The OCA and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap Company have now filed Cease and Desist letters with the various companies who are labeling their products as “organic,” despite the fact that a number of their products tested positive for the cancer-causing synthetic ingredient 1,4-Dioxane, including Jason’s, Nature's Gate, and Kiss My Face, among others. The OCA is demanding that these companies reformulate their products to remove petrochemicals and 1,4-Dioxane or else remove "organic" label claims from their packaging. Offending companies who do not contractually agree by Earth Day 2008 to clean up their act will be sued by the OCA. To avoid tainted products, OCA recommends that consumers look for the “USDA Organic” seal on body care products and cosmetics. If you don't see the seal, it may not be truly organic. To see a list of body care and home cleaning products tainted with with 1,4-Dioxane, as well as a consumer guide for finding safe personal care products, go here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/
GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK:
WAL-MART GOES rBGH-FREE
Last week, Wal-Mart announced its so-called “Great Value” store brand of milk will no longer come from cows injected with Monsanto’s controversial genetically engineered hormone, rBGH/rBST. As OCA's Director, Ronnie Cummins, stated in an interview with the Toronto Globe and Mail, Wal-Mart’s announcement will likely serve as a tipping point for driving Monsanto's controversial bovine drug off the market. Since its inception, the OCA has campaigned aggressively against rBGH , which is banned in Europe, Canada, and most of the industrialized world. Wal-Mart’s move, according to industry experts, will likely dramatically expand market demand for rBGH-free and organic dairy products. According to Cummins, “After 14 years of of bullying consumers and buying off FDA and USDA bureaucrats, this is the beginning of the end for this cruel and dangerous drug.” Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_11050.cfm
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U.S. GOVERNMENT PLUNDER OF THE WEEK:
FEDS SLAUGHTER OF WILD BISON BEATS 20th CENTURY RECORDS
Over 1,000 wild buffalo have been slaughtered in the Yellowstone National Park area since November of 2007, representing the largest kill since the 1800s. "It would seem as though history was not learned the first time, for here we are today, watching these same government entities enacting the same policy," said Nez Perce tribal member James Holt. According to those monitoring the situation, namely the Buffalo Field Campaign, the total kill-off number will likely exceed 2,000 for the year. While the government's official reason for the slaughter is to prevent the spread of brucellosis from wild bison to cattle, no such transmission has ever been documented, and the bison being sent to slaughter are not being tested for the disease. Learn more and get involved: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_11120.cfm
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“We've never seen anything like this before with our bats, much less any other mammals, with a very large regional die-off...It’s very scary and a little overwhelming from a biologist’s perspective. If we can’t contain it, we’re going to see extinctions of listed species, and some of species that are not even listed.”
Susi von Oettingen of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service speaking to the New York Times this week about as many as a half million bats mysteriously dying in the U.S. Northeast. Experts have no idea what the cause is.
TAKE ACTION ON PESTICIDES AND FARM BILL
Farm Bill conferees will be considering an amendment that would prohibit the USDA from exercising its authority to restrict specific pesticides in its conservation programs. For example, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program could not be used for organic transition, and USDA would not be allowed to prohibit the use of a specific pesticide, like methyl bromide, in a conservation program.
Click the following link to send a letter to your members of Congress to ask them to convince the Farm Bill conference committee to reject the pesticide amendment and allow USDA to advance conservation practices as needed: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_11197.cfm
WEB PROGRAM OF THE WEEK:
INTERVIEW WITH CANADIAN FAMILY FARMER WHO
DEFEATED GOLIATH MONSANTO
Saskatchewan Farmer, Percy Schmeiser, has spent the last decade bogged down in court battles with the Monsanto Corporation. Monsanto originally sued Schmeiser for unintentionally growing the company's patented canola seeds, even though the biotech plants that were growing in Schmeiser's field were there due to drift and contamination. The courts originally ruled in favor of Monsanto, saying that regardless of contamination, a farmer cannot grow patented seeds. But Schmeiser recently counter-sued Monsanto, claiming the company should be liable for the damages that their property causes others. Last week, Monsanto settled out of court and paid Schmeiser what it cost to have the invading biotech plants removed. Listen to this radio interview with Percy Schmeiser shortly after the landmark settlement: http://www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner/032008.htm
QUICK FACTS OF THE WEEK:
A NATION BUILT ON UNSUSTAINABILITY - FUEL, FOOD, AND DEBT
- With trucking diesel fuel prices now over $4 per gallon in many locations, food prices are reaching an all time high, since the average grocery store item has traveled 1500-3500 miles.
- Over the past year, alone, consumers have been forced to pay significantly more for staples like eggs (25 percent), milk (17 percent), cheese (15 percent), bread (12 percent), and rice (13 percent). This is partially due to increased costs of transportation and partially due to massive amounts of cropland being converted to biofuel production. As a result, consumers are paying more for their food and paying $15 billion in increased taxes per year for biofuel subsidies.
- Fuel prices have nearly doubled the expenses of commuters over the last year. Recent polls show a strong majority of U.S. citizens are in favor of allocating a larger portion of the federal budget for mass transportation.
- In contrast, the amount of federal money earmarked for mass transit projects (example: rail and bus) has been reduced by nearly 70% since the Bush Administration took over in 2001.
- A record number of consumers are using credit cards to pay for increased fuel costs. Although the recession has negatively impacted employment, the New York Times reports one of the few booming occupations in the current job market is as a Debt Collector.
- Since 2001, the top five oil companies have increased their annual profits by an average of 500%.
SUSTAINABILITY TIPS OF THE WEEK:
ON THE EVE OF PEAK OIL- HOW TO CUT FUEL COSTS
Obviously driving less, using mass transit, biking, walking or purchasing a fuel efficient vehicle are the best ways to cut your fuel consumption. But for those times where driving a car is a necessity, here are some tips:
- Don't be a jerky driver: Jumpy starts and fast getaways can burn over 50 percent more gasoline than normal acceleration. Use cruise control once accelerated.
- Drive slower: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most automobiles get about 20 percent more miles per gallon on the highway at 55 miles per hour than they do at 70 miles per hour.
- A well maintained car (oil change, fuel filters, tire pressure, alignment) gets an average of 10 percent better fuel efficiency.
- Turn off your engine if you stop for more than one minute. (This does not apply if you are in traffic.) Restarting the automobile will use less gasoline than idling for more than one minute.
- Decrease the number of short trips you make. Short trips drastically reduce gas mileage. If an automobile gets 20 miles per gallon in general, it may get only 4 miles per gallon on a short trip of 5 miles or less.
BOOK OF THE WEEK:
FAREWELL, MY SUBARU
What happens when a Domino’s pizza loving suburbanite from New Jersey decides it's time to leave behind the urban world to start his own off-the-grid sustainable farm in New Mexico? Find out in "Farewell, My Subaru", a new nonfiction book chronicling the carbon-neutral misadventures of Doug Fine. Whether its nearly getting electrocuted setting up his own solar panels, buying goats and hens for the first time, or getting the munchies from the smell of his newly converted veggie-oil truck, Doug comically shows that even through the struggles and lack of know-how, with the right mindset an everyday American can take massive successful steps towards sustainability.
Watch this short video about Doug's journey and order the book here: http://www.dougfine.com/
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EDEN FOODS OFFERS OCA CUSTOMERS 15% DISCOUNT
Eden Foods is one of the few national organic food producers who goes beyond the USDA Organic Standards. Although Eden Foods is USDA certified, their products do not bear the USDA seal, because they say the USDA standard really represents a "minimum standard" that Eden Foods goes far beyond. As a subscriber to Organic Bytes, you can enjoy a discount rate on any Eden Foods products by clicking here
Please forward this publication to family and friends, place it on web sites, print it, duplicate it and post it freely. Knowledge is power!
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Thursday, March 27, 2008
For the Spring, 2008 series, I will be reviewing the following films for The Sundance Channel's "The Green."
(Please note, these are NOT paid reviews, unless you count the free copy of the film on DVD I get so I can review each one.)
Tuesday, April 1
Publisher, The First Church of Healing The Earth
“Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Power”This episode explores the booming field of alternative energy as it introduces several individuals who are working to develop clean, renewable energy from resources like the sun, wind and even cow manure.
Alternative energy is a field I have a strong interest in. I've read a good bit about many different solutions, including wind, solar, various biofuels, and efficiency efforts. I definitely will take this film on.
This one looks to be of interest:
Tuesday, April 15
“Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Water”
Water is likely to be a flash point in the 21st Century, as population growth collides with droughts and dwindling reserves. This episode introduces three people who are embracing creative solutions to the looming shortage of drinking water – be it desalinating the ocean, catching rainwater or cleaning up our rivers.
I know water is huge and looming larger every year.
Both of these:
Tuesday, April 29th
“Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Food”
Loss of biodiversity, water depletion, topsoil erosion, carbon emissions: when it comes to conventional farming and industrial food production, the cost goes beyond the supermarket bill. This episode explores the different ways professionals and ordinary people are trying to nourish us with environmentally friendly food and wine.
9:35pm e/pAll in This Tea – Directed by Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht. This documentary immerses viewers in the rich world of Chinese tea while profiling the affable Californian importer who has made it his mission to introduce Americans to the brew’s many pleasures. David Lee Hoffman founded Silk Road Teas tea after spending much of 1970s living among the nomadic tribes and Buddhist monks of Asia, for whom tea is a way of life. All In This Tea looks at the history, traditions and intricacies of tea and joins Hoffman on a buying trip to China, where he seeks out small, artisanal growers and tries to persuade Chinese officials to turn away from industrial production in favor of handcrafted, environmentally sustainable tea farming. This is the most recent film from the award-winning documentarian Blank (Burden of Dreams).
I commute over 80 miles per day for work, so these:
Tuesday, May 27th
“Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Transport”
The automobile is still king in America, and it’s the single greatest polluter in most cities. This episode will show us how city governments, private organizations and university scientists are working to get commuters to leave their cars behind for cleaner, more efficient modes of transportation.
9:30pm e/pContested Streets: Breaking New York City Gridlock – Directed by Stefan Schaefer. Historians, urban planners and archival footage combine to tell the story of New York City’s chronic gridlock and its concurrent quest for safer, less crowded streets. Beginning its tale at the turn of the 20th Century, the film traces the dangers and developments, perspectives and personalities that have shaped the flow and flaws of Manhattan street traffic to the present day. As New York City citizens and government alike seek to reduce congestion, filmmaker Schaefer travels to Europe to survey new approaches to transportation in three dynamic world capitals: Copenhagen, Paris and London.
9:35pm e/pThe Great Warming – Directed by Michael Taylor. Narrated by Alanis Morissette and Keanu Reeves, “The Great Warming” explores how a changing climate is affecting the lives of people around the world. The film taps into the growing groundswell of public interest in climate change to present both an emotional and an accurate picture of the future of our planet. It includes comments from scientists, opinion-makers, and the emerging voice of the American Evangelical community about America’s lack of leadership in one of the most critical environmental issue of the 21st century.
I believe that totals seven films over the next three months.
Is there a way I can view the April 1st movie online in addition to getting the screening DVD? I'm not certain there's time for you to mail it.
The Great Lakes Zephyr - Wind Energy & Hydrogen Journal
Progressive Democrats of Illinois