This appeared during my internet search. It’s topical, relevant, and funny.
This appeared during my internet search. It’s topical, relevant, and funny.
There is one issue that is so intimately tied to our survival and economy that it sometimes is overlooked in economic impact—food. We all know what organic is all about, but what struck me while I was in Oregon was how unsustainable organic food can be ultimately. At that time, Oregon was the second most food insecure state in the nation. This was not because the state lacks arable land or food producers. The problem seemed to be what was happening to the food. Niche markets had locally-grown food for sale. But Trader Joe’s got most of their produce from Canada. It made me long for Wegman’s and my co-op. When I returned to Rochester and looked at the packaged organics available, many of them were from Oregon. I realized that people in Oregon were surrounded by great food, but were unable to buy it, because it was being processed or frozen and shipped all over the country. Essentially, the organic movement has become so large that local people are starving for others’ “right” to healthier food. It was somewhat of an epiphany. I knew this was a problem in say, Indiana, where most of the arable land goes to corn and leaves few fresh choices at the market. But this seemed completely antithetical to the organic movement. The good practices being used in the fields ultimately resulted in a massive excess of oil usage due to the export of food and the resultant import of it. That’s when localism started making much more sense.
I’d always been pro-local product. I hate malls and supported local businesses because I felt more connected to them. As a kid, we often shopped at the Public Market which was full of local purveyors of food, although most of that food was not local. Along came a sudden, vibrant farmers’ market explosion in Rochester. I realized that I could buy my produce and meat and dairy twice a week, and it was fresh. Most of the smaller markets are populated by local farmers who may have goods traded with a distant farmer, but the locavore market was my favorite. People traded ideas on how to use garlic scapes and kale and the bounty of chard when they were in season. I knew my farmer’s dog, the practices farmers used for raising their chickens, and effortlessly began to eat foods that were in season. (Tomatoes are not actually available in March if they’re grown locally outside of a hothouse.) I was also excited to find out that the owner of my favorite locavore restaurant came directly to the market to do his weekly menu planning and shopping.
It didn’t seem radical at all. Actually, it felt very traditional. Then I realized that I was in the perfect neighborhood; I could actually meet all of my daily needs by walking five minutes to a half an hour. My markets, restaurants, barber, coffee shop, bike shop, and favorite hangouts were right there. It was an amazingly simple life. In fact, it’s how Rochester neighborhoods were structured long ago, and has seen a revival. I even had enough of a yard to garden. I made good headway on this, and harvested my own heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, and peas.
I left it all behind for law school, and have yet to find my “groove” here. But, for those who are interested in how our food intake influences the land and economy, here are some resources on one urban homestead (which I’d love to do someday and is probably the most “organic” way to build a life), how to eat local during the winter, about food sovereignty, and a locavore restaurant in Buffalo as well as one in Rochester (both have the most amazing restaurant food I’ve tasted). Food is a basic human need, and I believe it should be a right. Eating local helps our own community and others, ensuring greater food security and decreased oil consumption.
http://www.vinoaroma.com/ (Apparently their internal links are broken, but Trattoria Aroma serves local foods)
I was also thinking about waste, like Leticia. Along those lines, I was thinking about waste and what “waste” really is…
I’m guessing we all remember the “three R’s” aimed at reducing resource consumption. They’re great in theory! But Recycling stole the spotlight, and is poorly implemented in many locations. People in Upstate NY are getting wise to the ‘bag’ movement—bringing their own bags to the grocery store and markets. At this point, they’re a great accessory for some. There are even places (most local co-ops) where you can bring your own container to store and transport your bulk goods. But in the search for alternative fuel supplies, there’s a massive one that has been ignored: Garbage.
The pipes you see sticking up from a landfill are actually preventing dump fires by releasing a combustible gas. We’ve got plenty of garbage. Why aren’t we using it instead of seeking wacky new ways to extract energy? We’re letting our waste go to waste. York County, PA has been using its waste to create energy since 1989. According to them, “(b)y using resource recovery, York County reduces its garbage to ash (90 percent by volume), saves the equivalent of approximately 13 acres of landfill space a year (35 feet deep), generates enough electricity to power 20,000 homes, and beneficially reuses 100 percent of the remaining ash residue.” http://www.ycswa.org/rrc/index.htm. The county also saves 375,000 barrels of oil per year with the process. This is all from a county containing only 435,000 people. Think of what larger counties could do. Their plant looks rather unamazing and maybe even the type of eyesore we’re used to with power plants.
New Yorkers attempting to use these technologies to provide power have had some difficulty due to incineration laws, but several processes may be used to obtain the same result. Anheuser-Busch’s plant in Baldwinsville uses anaerobic digesters to turn waste from the production process into energy that fuels 80% of their operations. Mayor Bloomberg plans to take bids for a plant to generate energy in New York City, drawing criticism from the NRDC, which states that recycling compliance must be higher before operating the program. http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/27/waste-to-electricity-plan-draws-mixed-response-in-n-y/.
Numerous sources of recapture are evolving, turning everything from wastewater, to livestock waste, to airborne carbon into a new source of energy. These technologies have amazing potential. Think of the reduction of landfills, the lack of methane pollution and animal waste runoff. An inefficient use of waste causes an entire host of environmental problems. And that goes back to the source of this class. When we fail to effectively use our waste, we must find more resources to extract! For those wanting more information, there’s the Waste to Energy Research and Technology Council site. http://www.seas.columbia.edu/earth/wtert/.
Finally, for a different take on reuse and recycling, resource recovery centers are developing. People may bring any non-hazardous materials to these sites, where they are refurbished or have useful parts removed and reused. One such site even has a recycled goods store on site. http://www.darebin.vic.gov.au/page/page.asp?Page_id=4813.
It’s been said by economists that waste is a symptom of the inefficient use of resources. With the plethora of opportunities arising to reuse, recapture, and rehabilitate our resources, and turn them into energy and goods, it would be an absolute shame if pro-extraction forces win so easily that something like fracking seems sensible. In fact, it makes no sense. It is laziness and easy-answer-extraction incarnate. We need to think of ways to use what already reduces our quality of life to enhance it.