Monday, November 28, 2011

Time To Say Goodbye

So the time has come too quickly to say farewell - I'm reminded of the scene in the movie Dead Poet's Society, when Robin Williams says goodbye to all of his students for the last time, and you can tell by the glances between all of them that there is a bittersweet feeling they all have - this is kind of how I feel about this blog but perhaps not quite as dramatic or heart-wrenchingly. Since the end of the semester at UT is looming, our professor is no longer going to require us to write blog posts as a graded assignment. On one end I'm really happy because this means I'm not going to have to come up with something to post every week or worry about the quality of my writing - but on the other hand, I'm kind of sad because this blog has served as a way for me to both stay informed and tell the world about sustainability and food issues. I've actually quite enjoyed searching different news websites for the latest stories or browsing search engines for cool new online sources.
So as a result, I've decided that I'll try to keep up my blogging - don't expect a bunch of posts all the time - but I will try to update it occasionally (maybe like once a month?)...

Anyways, even if my attempt to continue blogging falls flat on its face, I hope the time that I have spent writing on here has conveyed the importance of sustainability, not just in food, but in all aspects of our lives. In this new and changing modern world that we're all living in, issues that many of us are not aware of are becoming ever increasingly important - population numbers, climate change, food availability, and new sources of energy are just a few. Apathy is a trait commonly found in our society; people think "if it's not affecting us right now then why does it matter?". But it does matter - just doing your own small part to try to be sustainable, whether as I've suggested throughout my blogs, it's something as small as looking for sustainable and local companies to purchase food from or eat food at (Jones Soda, Ben & Jerry's, Chipotle), utilizing composting to reduce waste, or watching documentaries and reading the news to stay aware, every small act and every person doing that small act can make a difference. You just have to make your mind up to do it.

Since my future blog posts will probably be few, far between, and largely dependent on the amount of class work I may be encountering next semester, here's some other websites and blogs you can follow in the meantime in order to keep updated on food sustainability issues:
An awesome blog by food waste expert, Jonathan Bloom, about food waste and how we can prevent it
NPR's food blog, The Salt, is a great source for reading about food in general, but many of the posts deal with sustainability issues as well (if you read my post within the next day or two just look at the first article posted on the blog page - all about food waste!)
Grist's and The Guardian's section of their news websites devoted to food will definitely keep you updated on current issues
Though this blog doesn't always feature food related items - it definitely is a valuable resource about energy and environmental issues
Last but not least, when you need a laugh (just watch one of their videos or read through their website) or plain just need a delicious burrito and guacamole - come here and all of your needs will be met. Mmm.

So for now, goodbye, (or at least until after finals)... Keep stayin' sustainable.  :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Buy Nothing Day (aka the Festivus version of Black Friday)

I'm not sure how many of you may have watched Seinfeld back in the day, but even though it's a little before my time I love watching random episodes that replay on TV - one of them being the one about how George Castanza and his family celebrated a made-up holiday around Christmastime called Festivus. George's father hated the commercialism involved with Christmas so he created this holiday that involved having an unadorned pole, called the Festivus pole, and participating in other rituals such as the "Airing of Grievances" (telling other family members how much they've disappointed you the whole year) and the "Feats of Strength" (someone wrestling the head of the house). Now of course with Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George's boss all invited to celebrate Festivus at George's house, hilarity and chaos ensues. So when I heard about "Occupy Black Friday" or "Buy Nothing Day" it reminded me a little bit of Festivus, though a bit less ridiculous of course. Buy Nothing Day is basically the anti-Black Friday day, and its goal is to "wean ourselves off of mega corporations, put our money back into the local independent economy, and live for a different kind of future." Now it might be a little late to post this seeing as Black Friday is going to be over in T-minus 2 hours, but this article from shows how next year, maybe instead of spending our time fighting the crowds just to find halfway decent deals (and thus in a way supporting commercialism), we could think about doing some other activity such as watching movies with our family or decorating the christmas tree. Seems like a pretty sustainable idea to me (and a lot better than celebrating Festivus)... 

P.S. Don't forget to be sustainable with your Thanksgiving leftovers by remaking them into some other delicious meal!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

#secretfarmbill #2

After researching a little more about the farm bill I found some pretty cool websites from different groups and some articles that give more info... plus I found an awesome video by who other than the food expert himself, Michael Pollan?

Take Part is a division of Slate Media, who brought us some of the award winning documentaries such as Food, Inc, An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman, and The Cove. Their website is designed to provide interesting and thought-provoking articles to encourage people to get involved!

This Farm Bill Budget Visualizer was made by John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. They made it to help people understand where exactly the federal funding has been allocated in different areas.

Farmrun, self proclaimed as "media for a farmrun America" is published by Andrew Plotsky, a journalist of sorts, who writes and posts pictures about "his explorations into responsible, substituent agricultural lifestyles". Plus his most recent blogpost shows a really cool picture of different farmers who are voicing what they want the Farm Bill to contain.

"The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities." This article talks about exactly where money is being cut in the current farm bill.

These two articles from Grist, an environmental news website documents the secrecy stuff that's going on with the farm bill and also the opposition from different grassroots organizations.

This is the actual website for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. They have links to the hearings that have taken place about the Farm Bill.

And of course, this list wouldn't be complete without an article from the New York Times. Mark Bittman, a food columnist for the New York Times, gives his take on the Farm Bill.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


The Farm Bill, a piece of legislation that comes up for reauthorization about every 5 years, is up for reauthorization in 2012. It looks like the government is going to try to keep the mechanizations and proposals for the Farm Bill a secret, by making the decisions in a supercommittee instead of in Congress, with everyone's participation. Usually the compiling together of decisions about program cuts and what the bill will look like take a lot of time to come together, but a committee of four leaders from farming states is attempting to get everything done by November 23rd, and submit it to the supercommittee before they even enjoy their Thanksgiving dinners. The committee of four leaders from Oklahoma, Michigan, Kansas, and Minnesota are faced with making cuts in the money spent - why am I not surprised? Unfortunately, the areas they are aiming to make cuts in are commidity subsidizing, conservation, and nutrition (ex: food stamps) programs. In the area of conservation, programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Additionally, energy programs such as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCP) and the Renewable Energy for America (REAP) are being made to cut money as well. Though I haven't had time to look up all of these programs and what exactly they do to help our country, just from the names themselves they sound like they are programs that seem to be critically important to our country's agricultural future. And I'm not the only one upset about this, and about the secrecy of the committee who's making these proposed cuts. There is a large amount of opposition from the American people (atleast the ones who know that this is actually going on), food advocacy groups, and the farmers themselves. And rightly so - these group's voices should be heard and taken into account, especially the farmers, because after all they are the ones who are providing the food for us. Additionally, I think the committee of four and the supercommitte should be crystal clear with the American people in the process of making and implementing the farm bill. This bill is something that is going to affect our food production system for the next 5 years, come on leaders, let's try to not mess it up.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Movie Time!

A lot of people think they're boring but I love them. They always make me aware of an issue that I was not aware of before. Here's some that I've found relating to food, sustainability, and our crazy changing world. You can bet that I added these to my Netflix queue. 

Dirt! The Movie

Narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis, this documentary takes a look at one of our most important but least thought about resources, dirt.  The loss of nutrients in our topsoil, or as they term it, "the war against dirt" is getting increasingly worse and will greatly affect our futures.

The End of the Line

The End of the Line premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to great applaud. Charles Clover, an investigative reporter looks at the effects of overfishing, and how if things don't change we may soon face an ocean without any fish.

Food, Inc. 

This is the only documentary of the three that I've actually watched yet. It really opened my eyes to the shady (and disgusting) practices of the food industry and how we as Americans are relatively ignorant about where our food comes from. It's downright terrifying sometimes as to the things we don't know. And of course it also focuses on what we can do to make our food situation better.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Roadkill... A Viable Option?

Growing up around my Uncle Allen, I was used to the idea of stopping on the side of the road when you saw an injured or possibly dead animal. If the animal was just injured then Uncle Allen would either take it home and nurse it back to health or drop it off at a veterinary center. But if the animal was dead - and looked like it had been killed fairly recently then he would a lot of the time take it home and roast it up. Mmm. Free food - what could be better? An article from NPR believes the same - as long as you know your roadkill. They say you should know how to "check the blood, hair, and eyes of the animal for signs to make sure the meat is safe to eat". Experts say that in reality roadkill is just as likely as hunted animals to be susceptible to foodborne illnesses. Just be sure you know your animals - and be careful of road traffic! Though there may not be an obvious connection to sustainability here, if you think about it, it's pretty sustainable to eat something that would otherwise just take forever to decompose on the side of the road. Plus it makes people not have to shop for as much meat when they go to the store.

Also, just so you guys know, UT students have recently started a new program called "Fruved". Their goal is to get students to do small things every day to help themselves eat healthier and become more physically active. Sounds pretty cool to me.
Check it out!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Climate Change May Threaten Your Cabernet

Wine! As an article from NPR points out, in California's grape vineyards, such as the oh so famous Napa Valley, climate change may be altering temperatures relatively soon. With rising temperatures will also come the possibility that many of the grapes used for the wines people frequently drink will not be able to be grown anymore. Many of these grapes' acidity, color, and smell will be changed by extreme heat. There is the option of starting to grow grapes that can grow in Spain or Italy, or breeding grapes so that the varieties can adapt to the changing weather. But the problem is that if these grapes are changed at all they can no longer be advertised as "pinot noir", "chardonnay" or "sauvignon blancs" - and these are the names that have been effectively marketed and are the ones consumers are demanding. Wine growers have not come up with a solution yet, but they will have to eventually, especially since by 2040, thirty to forty percent of California's prime wine growing land could be reduced by a 2 degree temperature increase. This unfortunate situation is an example of how if climate change and carbon levels in our atmosphere continue without much effort to change anything, many things we take for granted now, such as wine, may have to be adapted or altogether changed in the future.