Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Micheal Pollan video from Portland, OR

I watched this Michael Pollan interview done in Portland, Oregon regarding his new book, In Defense of Food. I find him a captivating and "real" person to listen to. This is probably way he gets less backlash from corporations that others activists do. In the interview he is asked about this and he mentions that due to the rhetoric he uses, he usually does not experience too much backlash. He gets some from the corn industry when he talks about high fructose corn syrup. He does try not to name corporations too much. When he talked about Whole Foods though, he did experience a heavy "push-back".

He starts talking about some historical facts involing the Food and Drug Administration. In 1973 the FDA threw out the "imitation rule" that when a food changed its ingredient, like bread for example, it would have to say "imitation bread". This is why you can buy something that says "fat free sour cream" and it you look at the ingredients, it is not really sour cream at all.Pollan also mentions that in 1977, dietary goals were created to eat less animal fats because the government was concerned about the amount of saturated fats in the American diet. The beef industry among others were outraged and stopped this from happening. Instead the goals were rewritten to something like "choose less fatty meats". Since then, you will never see the government tell you to eat less of anything.

He goes on to discuss that in America, the focus on eating is on the science of nutrients and health instead of eating for pleasure, culture and community. The science of nutrients is very young, There is not enough information known for nutrients to have the value that eating good food has, regardless of what the bottle says. This knowledge coupled with what I have learned
from my reading Food Politics by Marion Nestle, about how vitamins and supplements are not regulated, has completely changed my mental model of food and supplements. I have probably spent thousands of dollars in my life buying all sorts of supplements. Now I know that a there is no evidence that any supplement does what it says it will. Furthermore, the level of herbs, purity etc. is questionable, a supplement may have a high lead content for example. Good food is the only sure way of staying healthy, and organic food is up to sixty percent higher inantioxidants and nutritional value. (Kingsolver, 2007)

As we have learned in this class, Pollan continues to discuss how the wisdom of food cultures is very important and relevant versus the science we are all used to looking at. There are many processed food products that are masquerading as food. He ends with humorous antidotes like "Don't eat anything your great grandma would not recognize as food" or "The whiter the bread the sooner you'll be dead".

Pollan reminds us that the consumer has a great deal of power with their food dollars and to "vote with your fork!" There are many that can't afford to do this so vote on the policy level too.

I am including a couple links to a local Seattle yard that is being turned into a garden. I wonder how many people a front yard can feed?

Here is a link to this A Micheal Pollan video from Portland, OR

Creating a Food Garden in a NE Seattle Front Yard

Lawn Gone part one and two,,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Harvest Ritual

East: The gifts we have received from the bounty of the earth give us reason to be thankful.

In this bread, we are thankful for the abundance of the earth. Grain that was once green, dies and can be transformed into bread and sustains us throughout the winter. May we be nourished that we may nourish life.
When we eat this bread may we remember that we eat the body of the earth, we eat the fire of the sun, the water in the rain and the life in the air.

South: The gifts we have received from the bounty of the earth give us reason to be thankful.

In this honey we are thankful for the work of the bees and all other animals whose life and labour gives us blessing. We bless them in return. In the bees may we see the beauty and possibilities of working in community. May we learn from their example.
When we eat this honey may we taste in it's sweetness the body of the earth from which sprung the flowers whose nectar is the source of this gift. May we taste the sun to which the flowers turned, the rain which filled it with life and the wind which carries it's scent.

West: The gifts we have received from the bounty of the earth give us reason to be thankful.

In this fruit we are thankful for the diversity of life that springs from the body of the earth. In every organism that has been, is and will be we see the face of the divine which is always present.
When we eat this fruit may we remember the mystery that binds together the seen and unseen things of this universe. Though we know the power of the elements: earth, fire, water and air that bring about this fruit's existence, behind all these lies a mystery that we may never know.

North: The gifts we have received from the bounty of the earth give us reason to be thankful.

In the sage, we are thankful for healing power that lies within the earth's bounty. Among her gifts there is medicine for our hearts, minds and spirit.
With this sage we also ask to receive wisdom, wisdom that pervades time, wisdom that will help us choose to act for the benefit of multiple generations.
May we seek this wisdom not only from within but also without- learning from the elements that have been here since the beginning.

Centre: The gifts we have received from the bounty of the earth give us reason to be thankful.

In this wine, we are thankful for the brothers and sisters whose labour create this gift. May we remember the community on whom we depend for our sustenance.
In this wine, may we remember in equal weight the life and death that is inherent in the creation of food.
In the works of the elements and the cycles of the earth, may we see that death and life truley have no separation but are both expressions of the nature and mystery of this world. May we remember, as we drink this wine and eat this food, that we eat from the body of the earth, which is our body. May we remember that when we eat, we eat our own life and our own death.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Tale of Three Diets

Throughout this study I have shifted my belief about the significance of traditional diets several times, from assuming that traditional diets were a necessity, to reconsidering and assigning them an “aww shucks” level of nostalgia. Then in the last week of readings I have found an essay that verifies the co-evolution of desert dwellers with their foods. This was the evidence that I had expected to find throughout the research. I now consider a traditional diet significant due to the health benefits people can assume by subsisting on a diet of locally-available foods and for the cultural experience food provides and the informing of who the consumer has become.

The Luiseño Indians are comprised of seven bands from Southern California. Their native land stretched from the coast into the inland mountains and valleys. The Indians accessed different areas depending on seasonal food availability. Upon being displaced from their land and reassigned to an area of poor agricultural viability they were then supplied highly processed commodified food-like products by the U.S. government. This process has destroyed much of the Luiseño food tradition, contributing to widespread degradation of health. The agricultural tradition that does exist consists of large swaths of citrus and avocado trees that thrive on the rocky slopes of the area.

At the conclusion of this un-scientific research project, I believe that the Luiseño Indians have the most incentive to retain their traditional diets. Gary Paul Nabhan, a food anthropologist, has compiled compelling evidence that desert dwellers, as the Luiseño are, from Arizona, New Mexico and Australia have co-evolved with their native foods. This co-evolution allows for greater bioavailability of the nutrients contained within the plants. These peoples have eaten low-glycemic, complex carbohydrate, foods throughout their existence until the introduction of highly processed commodified food-like products. These products, made up of simple carbohydrates, are rapidly metabolized and stored as adipose tissue, causing diet-related diseases that have ravaged native communities, including the Luiseño. Despite all the compelling evidence, the Luiseño appear to be making limited attempts to reclaim their traditional diet. The Rincon Fiesta was an opportunity for the Band to celebrate their cultural heritage and build social capital within their community, but I experienced little attempt by the Band to do so. This observation is based on peripheral interaction with the members themselves. My attempts to learn from Pauma Band members were thwarted many times.

My experience with the Somali Bantus was the most extensive of the three groups and the most fulfilling. The Somali Bantus, having relocated to San Diego four to five years ago, maintain a strong connection to their traditional foods. Agricultural people in Africa; the Somali Bantus are continuing their tradition in their new home. Many of them are farming small plots at New Roots Community Farm in City Heights, San Diego. This farm is being used as an incubation program to find farmers who are interested and skilled enough to begin farming larger plots at Tierra Miguel Farm before moving onto land of their own. A group of 12 men and women recently visited Tierra Miguel to prepare for the training program.

I visited New Roots most recently during the Grand Opening celebration. At that time, I was shown the crops that are being grown by the farmers, beaming with pride. I was then introduced to some of the dishes that were prepared for the occasion. Sambusas stuffed with amaranth leaves and onion then lightly fried, were amazing. Amaranth was also steamed and served like spinach. Amaranth is a huge part of the Bantu diet and is believed to relieve arthritis pain that affects the joints of the lifelong farmers. The last dish I tried was a corn meal cake that is dipped in stewed okra and lima beans. This is regularly consumed as a midday meal and gives strength to the consumer. Okra is also thought to increase male virility. Many young members of the group have widened their food spectrum and now enjoy foods that were abstract when they first arrived, such as pizza. Cheese is uncommon in their native region, leading to its tentative introduction into their present diet, if at all.

Most cultures use festivals, holidays and celebrations to experience culture through food. In a culture that celebrates over 200 holidays, food traditions are celebrated daily. Jews who observe Shabbat have a weekly food ritual that involves preparing all the food on Friday afternoon that will be consumed between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday. There are also prescribed days of the week when Jews will enjoy fleishig (flesh) or milchig (milk) meals. Meat and dairy are never to be combined by observant Jews. This curiosity is due to the representation of life and death that milk and flesh respectively represent. Kosher food is that produced in accord with Jewish law. All fruits and vegetables are Kosher. Slaughtered animals, never pigs though, must be done so by the method known as shechitah to be considered Kosher. This method is supposedly painless to the animal.

The Seder meal, observed the first or second night of Passover, is the most commonly observed traditional meal for Jews. Each part of the menu is representative of their cultural history; four cups of wine, God’s liberation had four stages; at least three matzot, to remind of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; karpas, a green vegetable such as parsley symbolizing spring and rebirth; haroset, a sweet mixture of dried fruit, nuts, apples and spices symbolizing the mortar that the slaves made for bricks in Egypt; maror, bitter herbs such as horseradish, representing the bitterness of slavery and beitzah, a roasted egg symbolizing a festival sacrifice brought in the days of the Temple (Blech 164).

Following the Judaic Diaspora, food continues to connect the people. Their traditional diet has undoubtedly been affected by their present locality but traditions shine through. I admire the pride and joy that their food history elicits. The few opportunities I have had to experience a traditional Jewish meal remain some of my favorite.

One of my readings this quarter, The Future of Food by Warren Belasco is a summary of theorized food and agricultural future states that have been written over the past two hundred years. Whether from the Cornucopian or Malthusian school, not one writer has theorized a future state that has come to fruition more than incidentally, such as approximate global population. Malthusians, doomsayers to some, believe that without dramatic population checks we will starve or be eating analogs made of wood chips or algae.

Cornucopians are technicists to the core, believing that science will always supply an answer. Scientific breakthroughs, increased yields, decreased labor, have allowed population to grow unchecked without generating total global hunger. Arguments against population control center around the need to continuously refill the population pool. By slowing population growth we will be decreasing the pool size from where the next generation of scientists will come. Food and agriculture have resisted the attempt by technicists to apply theoretical developmental models. As much as Americans love technicism, they do not want fully synthetic foods. Algae burgers and sawdust steaks are not as appealing to the palette as they are to the economics of production.

I consider myself a hybrid of the two. I believe that we, as a world community, will experience cornucopian amounts of food by harshly checking the population. I believe that the global carrying capacity is not more than half of our current rate. By increasing global education levels we can learn to enact responsible development practices through which regenerative ecosystems can flourish. Even without drastic population reduction, regenerative food systems will supply more food than can be consumed while improving ecosystem health whereby future populations will not want for delicious, healthful food.

Works Cited

Blech, Rabbi Benjamin (2003). Understanding Judaism. New York, N.Y: Alpha.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Tourist Test

Looking back through all of my Kamana II course materials from his quarter and the work that I have done, I thought it might be a good idea to share the initial evaluation, which tested my knowledge of my local ecology. If you would like to participate and have about an hour to spare, then follow the link below. The Tourist Test is in a PDF half way down the page. Jon Young, who is the founder of the Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, Washington, developed the test. I would love to hear your experience with the test and engage with you in discussion online or during the next residency.

My Tourist Test Reflection from back in July.

I really have a lot to learn. I can’t believe how much I don’t know about common plants and animals the surround me everyday. I have a BA in Social Ecology but I know very little about ecology. I think that I am ignorant to the natural world around me because I am not forced to rely on it for my survival in the short term. Tomorrow and the next day I can go about my daily business and not interact with the natural world at all. However, I know full well that in the long term, if I continue to ignore the natural world, I am actually jeopardizing the longevity of my own survival.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What You Can Do To Help

Since I first began blogging about national parks and climate change I have had a number of concerned people ask me “What can I do to help?” This blog is dedicated to helping those people find the information they need in order to help both our country’s beloved national parks and our planet.

Let me begin by saying that climate change is not only a problem within the national parks, it is first and foremost a global problem that requires global action to overcome. This means that even if you are thinking “I am only one person, what can I do?” just remember that real, lasting social change often starts out small, on an individual level. Just think what could happen if everyone who felt that way were to actually do something about it and make that one small change in their lives. We could change the world! Being a citizen on this planet means that you are a part of that global whole, and the one small change you do make actually does make a difference to both our national parks and our planet. Ok, I think you get the picture…enough preaching to the choir, here are some very simple things you can do to make a difference in our world and help preserve our national parks, unimpaired for future generations.

First off on a larger scale, the U.S. EPA has a wonderful link listing 25 things you can do to help cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Here are some examples:
*replace conventional bulbs with energy saver bulbs
*look for energy star qualified products
*seal and insulate your home
*use a push mower instead of a gas powered mower
*compost your food and yard waste
*keep your car tuned
*keep adequate pressure in your car tires
*walk, bike, or use public transportation
*use the power management features on your office equipment to save energy
*educate your children about how they can reduce their impact
*teach children about climate change and ecosystems

TheEPA site also has a GHG emissions calculator that can estimate your household’s annual emissions and offer ways to reduce them.

Next you can support the National Parks Conservation Association, a non-profit organization created in 1919 to support our national parks. The NPCA is constantly conducting studies within the parks with regard to climate change and even has a publication entitled Unnatural Disaster: Global Warming & Our National Parks which is full of information about how climate change is affecting our parks. I highly recommend reading this. While you are there you can find out more about the NPCA, what studies are being done in various parks and pledge your support.

Next you can visit the Climate Friendly Parks website which is a partnership between the NPS, EPA, and the NPCA to help the national parks become carbon neutral and educate their employees and the public about how they can help reduce the impacts of climate change. Here you will be able to see which parks are participating in the CFP program and monitor their progress through the process of becoming carbon neutral. While you are at it you can also find out what you can do to Do Your Part to support the Climate Friendly Parks program.

For those of you who live in the state of Washington you may find this link about what you can do to Help Mount Rainier Become Carbon Neutral informative. You can also learn more about sustainability and how to become a Steward of the Environment at this link also from Mount Rainier National Park.

You can also support your national parks by purchasing an annual pass called the America the Beautiful pass. You can either purchase an annual pass for an individual park or a pass for every national park and federal recreational land in the country. This is the one I choose to get, I believe it cost $80 and it is a bargain for people like me who love to visit our parks and forest service lands. In just a few trips it has paid for itself. The best part of purchasing either pass is if you purchase them actually in the park rather than online, the money goes directly to the park that your pass was purchased in, making it even easier to support the park you love.

Lastly please, please, please (pretty please) vote to increase funding for our national parks. It has been a very common story among everyone in every park I have spoken with that there needs to be more funding for research, repairs, upgrades to greener facilities, maintenance, public education, etc. These places that harbor such unique and pristine environments, rich cultural heritage, endangered and threatened species, spiritual and inspirational landscapes, recreational opportunities galore, and embody the spirit of our nation need your help. They are your treasures, please help to keep them unimpaired for future generations.

An Interview at Pinnacles National Monument

I recently had an opportunity to interview someone at the Pinnacles National Monument in California where I used to work as a park ranger. It seems that a lot has been happening there since my employment in 2002 and it is all very exciting. The year after I left was the first year that the California condor was reintroduced into the park, something that I wished I had the opportunity to get to see for myself. Many of the buildings that were there when I was are now gone and all of the portable trailers for employee housing have since been replaced with dormitories. The park has acquired some land just outside of the east entrance and now has a campground where they offer ranger led interpretive talks about the park along with night hikes to star gaze and stroll along the trails by moonlight, something that I think is absolutely awesome! The park is also home to talus caves which were created by large boulders lodging themselves into the narrow canyons. These caves are home to the Townsend’s big-eared Bats which are listed as a sensitive species. The rock formations in the park are made of rhyolitic breccia which is composed of lava, sand, ash, and angular chunks of rock that ejected from a volcano many years ago. These crags and cliffs are home to over 20 different species of raptors with some species nesting on a yearly basis. Altogether Pinnacles is home to over 140 species of birds. Pinnacles National Monument was established in 1908 to preserve the stunning rock formations for which is was named and originally only protected 2,060 acres. Today the park encompasses 26,000 acres and now protects a rich cultural heritage as well as a unique ecosystem.

Since I knew someone that still worked within the park I was able to have a very candid and openhearted conversation about what was going on in the park with regards to climate change. My correspondent, who I will call NPS employee to protect their privacy, informed me that the park has partnerships with North County High, Salinas High School, Hartnell Community College, and a non-profit organization called Pinnacles Partnership. The schools get to come explore the park and learn about the cultural and environmental resources found there, which is a great step in my opinion to create a community of caring, aware, nature loving park advocates. Pinnacles Partnership provides funding for many programs at the park including education and youth programs, habitat restoration, and recovery of the California condor. I next asked NPS employee if there was much talk within the park about climate change and they informed me that there was actually a lot of talk about it. The downfall to all this talk was that everyone talking about it was going in a million different directions and not getting anything done. I next asked about the parks status in the Climate Friendly Parks program mentioning that I had noticed that the Pinnacles had completed the workshop and had applied but had not yet completed their greenhouse gas inventory. NPS employee said that they already knew this and sadly stated that it had not yet been completed because everyone in the park was too buried in other projects to collect the information and that it was low on the list of priorities. NPS employee did inform me that there was an exhibit at the public information center entitled “Climate Change, What Can We Do?” which informs the public about steps they can take to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. NPS employee expressed that they would feel so happy if only one person every day saw this and practiced these habits to reduce their GHG emissions.
Finally I asked NPS employee this question, “What is/are the most frustrating thing/s going on with regard to research and public education about climate change within the parks?” to which I got this reply:
“I don’t really see what other parks are doing, what studies are going on in the parks. How can we affect people at home? How do we make it matter to them? What kind of research is going on in other parks and how are they relating to their visitors? Is the information they relate to the public based on speculation or fact? I would really like to see how climate change is directly affecting plants and animals within this park and how that is affecting the park as a whole. I feel that the parks must work together on this issue in order to make things happen.”
This has really had me thinking a lot about what I can do as a passionate advocate of our country’s national parks. There are a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head about this right now. Once again it has been proven to me that there needs to be some sort of communication and information sharing happening here that is currently absent from present procedure. Once again I am coming away from an information gathering session with more questions than answers. Perhaps it is here that I will find my answer. Maybe the answer I seek is indeed in the form of a question.