Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Take Down This Wall...

And so it came to pass that on Nov. 4, 2008, shortly after 11 p.m. Eastern time, the American Civil War ended, as a black man — Barack Hussein Obama — won enough electoral votes to become president of the United States.

A civil war that, in many ways, began at Bull Run, Virginia, on July 21, 1861, ended 147 years later via a ballot box in the very same state. For nothing more symbolically illustrated the final chapter of America’s Civil War than the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia — the state that once exalted slavery and whose secession from the Union in 1861 gave the Confederacy both strategic weight and its commanding general — voted Democratic, thus assuring that Barack Obama would become the 44th president of the United States. - - New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman. Read more...

Slavery began in Virginia soon after the English colonists first settled in America around 1607 and lasted until the ratification of the thirteenth amendment to the US Constitution in 1865. Slavery was seen by many to be abhorrent as far back as the writing of the Constitution of the United States. That it was not abolished at that time, is a sad twist of fate which has caused much sorrow within our nation and has kept us from being truly great. In spite of the sentiment shared by many and expressed in Thomas Jefferson's words, acknowledging that "all men are created equal" slavery persisted as a compromise in hopes of forging a stronger union able to withstand the coming war for independence from England. And yet, after the war for Independence was fought and won, slavery endured for nearly 100 years more.

President Lincoln, in his campaign of 1860, challenged this compromise and campaigned against the expansion of slavery. His electoral victory was followed by seven Southern states declaring succession from the Union. The bitter war that ensued between the States, the deadliest in American history taking the lives of over 620,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilians, ended in 1865 bringing the official end of slavery in the United States. However it did not end the inhumanity that resulted from slavery and was followed by the Reconstruction of the South and then the hateful "Jim Crow" years. Inequality and injustice remained the written law of the land for nearly 100 years more. Changing the slavery laws of the land at the close of the civil war did not change the hearts of the people.

This unsettled issue of racial equality bore fruit to the civil-rights movement initiated with 1954 Supreme Court case of Brown v. the Board of Education. The struggles born out of the duplicity of our beliefs and our refusal to live out the "truths" we "hold to be self-evident" violated our national conscience and the nation could not rest as long as we enslaved any of our citizens in the bonds of inequality. The unrest of the civil-rights movement strained our nation again to it's limits. The sorrows of that era included the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy, and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Many brave men and women, black and white, fought the predominance of discrimination at the risk of their very lives. Many strides toward equality were made through dedicated efforts.

Some fifty years past the Brown v. the Board of Education case and two hundred and thirty-two years after Thomas Jefferson penned the words within the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", we have elected an African-American as the 44th POTUS all the while many asked if our nation was ready for such a thing. So deeply run the scars of our inhumanity towards each other caused by slavery and the lack of respect for life that this injustice has wrought, we still today have to ask if we are ready for a black man to be president.

Maybe it is fitting that this man, son of a white woman from Kansas "the Free State" in the heart of America and a black man from the distant shores of Kenya in the continent from which slaves were brought to this land, should unite us in the understanding that all people are indeed created equal. The blood of both races flows through his veins. There is a symbolic justice and symmetry about Barack Hussein Obama II becoming the first black man to serve in the office of President of the United States signaling the final breaking down of the wall caused by the injustice of slavery.

Many will still ask this question and we may see difficult times in future days as our nation absorbs the significance of this election. It is my prayer that we as a nation and as individuals live out the words Thomas Jefferson was so ardent to add to the Declaration and that we embody the sentiment, "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." Our nation is a beacon set upon a hill and the eyes of the world are upon us. May the "someday that we shall overcome" be this very one.

And in the spirit of his campaign the people answered, "YES WE CAN!"

I confirm that I am a private citizen and in no way officially connected to the Barack Obama campaign other than personally being in support of the Obama candidacy. Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos Buzz it up

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Farms providing pigs to Hormel involved in horrible cruelty

Do corporate farms have to be places of horrible cruelty? Chickens with beaks chopped off headed to KFC, downer cows dragged to the slaughter house, now Hormel pigs cruelly beaten and impaled. When I posted about KFC abuse of chickens I stated that I am not a vegan but if I view much more of this I will have no stomach for meat.

This summer we participated in a CSA program in which we subscribed to weekly food baskets from local farms. We received fresh vegetables as well as meats all grown on local family farms. The quality of the food was superb and we learned about the local farms while enjoying the food. It gave a closer connection to our community.

Corporate farms are like any other corporation having to meet quarterly numbers to keep their stockholders happy. Cutting corners and quality is just a part of the package. If you work for a corporation, ask yourself, would you want your dog treated the way workers are treated at your corporation?


Call on Hormel to make changes for animals!

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Healthy School Lunches

The kids are back in school and enjoying the famous school lunches. After eight years of "social-cut-back" government the lunches are very different than in yesteryear.

I remember when I was a kid, many, many years ago, the school lunches were pretty hardy even if they were a bit funky. Things like the square pizza slices that were different from any pizza you can imagine. What was that cheese on there? Not sure what type of sauce that was either. And my favorite, the incredible cinnamon rolls.

Over the years, things began to decline in school kitchens. Remember during the Regan administration when ketchup was being counted as a vegetable for nutritional purposes?

With all of the attention be placed on the "greening" of America, one thing that hasn't be talked about much is school lunches. Here is a an interesting blog post I ran across recently about healthier school lunches and what got me thinking about this.

The first step in nutritional lunches for your kids is really to pack a lunch for them. This works well if your kids are interested in eating healthy. And if there is not some "kid-stigma" about kids who carry lunch pails. When my children were in school they insisted they had to buy lunch.

The best answer for all school children is to work towards school systems buying locally for school lunches. I wrote an article about Consumer Supported Agriculture in which I encouraged local growers to start looking for new markets and to be creative about it. We joined a CSA network this summer that is affiliated with our local Hen House Grocery stores. It has been a great experience. It seems to me that a similar alliance could be created to develop a market with the local school systems to provide better foods for school lunches.The local school might even serve as a good CSA outlet for families to pick up food subscriptions.

There could also be some interesting educational opportunities as well. Many CSA's encourage participation of their members at the local farms. Wouldn't it be a great out-of-the-classroom experience to get the children connected to the source of their food? The lessons that would provide are multiple. You could incorporate lessons on science, writing, socials studies, business, economics, among others.

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Kentucky Fried Cruelty: time to kick the bucket - Pamela Anderson Video

Pamela Anderson is famous for videos on the web. This is one that is truly revealing, but in a whole new way. Once you see it, you will never look at a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken in the same way again. If you dare, view her video here:
Watch more videos at
I am not a vegan or activist for animal rights. I do believe that the least we can do if we eat animals is to respect the life within them and give them a healthy environment in which to live while they are raised. It's not only humane, but an animal raised in a healthy environment produces healhier and better tasting food. (Sorry Peta!) I am still a meat eater, but I have greatly reduced the amount of meat in my diet. I often have vegetarian meals. It is a result of needing to improve my health, but the more I explore vegetable dishes, the more great food I find. Meat is no longer the main attraction on our table. There are multiple reasons to reduce the amount of meat that we eat. It is healthier for our bodies. It is also healthier for the planet. Meat takes lots of resources to feed and raise, slaughter, deliver to market, and keep fresh until the consumer purchases the meat. After you watch Pamela's video, watch this one about a responsible and humane way to raise chickens: Path to Freedom: heritage chickens.

*Make your own KFC sign at Buzz it up

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Can a Used Car be Greener than a New Hybrid?

Some look at the numbers and say "Yes!" (Wired) Others see the numbers adding up in favor for the hybrid and say the Prius is your best long-term energy saver. (Slate) The best thing going in this discussion is that people are genuinely looking at creative alternatives to the norm. Both articles mentioned present good arguments. The Slate article is basing numbers on keeping your car for 11.5 years. They propose that a well-made car should last 15 years. Most people don't keep their cars 11.5 years. The norm is about five years. Based on keeping your car five years, a used car will probably use less energy than a new hybrid considering the premium cost of producing the hybrid. You have to purchase an efficient used car to make this work and you have to keep it five years. If you could manage to keep your used car 11.5 years, then, Slate says, the Prius wins out. I bought my current car because my previous car, which I purchased used, was totaled in a wreck. It was two years old. I kept it for six years. I was intending to pass it on to my daughter when I purchased a new car so losing it in the accident stung. Now my car is that magic age of five. It's a Camry and gets 30.5 miles per gallon over all. It is very tempting to purchase a shiny new car with all the new bells and whistles you get these days. However it is priceless having NO car payments. I got the windows tinted last month. This has helped the cooling efficiency tremendously which should hopefully also impact fuel usage at least a bit. My rule of thumb has been to keep the old car as long as the maintenance is less than a monthly car payment. The revised rule of thumb has to also take into account the cost of fueling up at $4 plus a gallon. If the cost of fuel and maintenance is more than the new car payment considering fuel savings, then time to buy. When considering whether to buy used vs. new, I divide the cost of each vehicle over the number of years I would be likely to keep the car. I have found that for a long term hold, new seems to win out on year-to-year cost. One point in favor of buying a new energy efficient car such as the Prius is that the emissions are much cleaner than a non-hybrid new or used. My 2003 Camry runs pretty clean, but if you were to purchase an older fuel efficient car, you might consider the emissions. The consideration for keeping your car as long as possible along with having no car payments is that when you purchase your next car, the longer you wait, the more efficient car you should be able to get. I am counting on getting a total electric car about five years from now that will knock the socks off of any Prius I could purchase today. But then, you could always buy a used Prius. Wonder what that does to the numbers? I have to admit, I have been coveting the pretty green Prius I have been seeing on the road...and you can get it used for a bit less than the new '08 versions! This is the pretty baby I have been wanting! Compared to the 2008 Prius, the used '07 is a couple thousand less, but not with all the bells and whistles I put on the '08. After I pay to transfer the used Prius, that brings me a step closer to the new price. There is a discrepancy in the MPG's claimed by the used vs. new. The used claims 60/51 where the new states 48/45. In the end, I would probably buy new again. You have to figure that there will still be a market for a good used Prius in 4 - 5 years if the new technology tempts me to buy again then. My current car would cost me about $15,000 - $17,000 if I bought it at Carmax today. Here's a comparable version except that I have a sport package with rear-spoiler and leather seats. Let's see, a trade-in value of say, $12,000 against a $29,000 car...payments might be around $350. Not bad...however I have no payments now. Maybe I can talk them up to $15,000 and down to $27,000??? Payments of $275 - $300 a month? Ah, so much for day-dreams, I will stick with my faithful Camry with no car payment for a few more years.

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Randy Pausch (1960 -2008)

"It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you."

It is with sadness that we report the news of the passing of Randy Pausch on July 25, 2008. Our Friendly Earth offers condolences to the family and friends of Randy.

His "family and friends" have grown to large numbers as he shared his "Last Lecture" with us all. I have often visited his update page to see how he was doing. I continued to hold out hope for his recovery as I know many, many others have as well. We have all gained by knowing him. His legacy will endure in our hearts.

Carnegie Mellon News

Dr. Gabriel Robins - The Legacy of Randy Pausch

Quotes from Randy's Last Lecture

More on this site:

Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon professor fighting cancer passes the six month mark...

Randy on the Oprah Show

Donate Now to the Pancreatic Action Network. Continue Randy's work and help make a new future. View Randy's testimony before Congress on behalf of the Pancreatic Action Network "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." --Randy Pausch
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Price of Gas and Public Transit

I just read a post on The Sustainable Backyard about $4.00 Gas. I commented and got a little verbose so I decided to post here since this is something I have been thinking about too as I am sure many of you are as well. It hurts when you go to the pump these days!

My hubby and I have started carpooling to work. Fortunately his work is right on the way to mine. I drive 20 miles each way and his work is about 12 each way. It helps to carpool! We have started noticing how many vehicles large and small that have only one driver in the morning commute. Carpooling is a good alternative to $4.00 gas - but I still feel ripped off by the Oil companies!

It has also made me very aware that our public transportation in Kansas City is way behind. I tried to map out a bus route to my job and found it would take 2.5 hours and 3 - 4 bus changes compared to a 25 minute drive by car. I would have to take a bus north just short of downtown and then take a couple of buses back south, then west to my workplace.

My husband found an article stating that last year the buses were hurting for funds, but today they can’t keep up with the demand with many bus runs packed and standing room only. There is a need for more routes as well. If we could just get some routes going East and West in addition to the routes already going North and South taking people to downtown and back. There is a need on the south business corridor for some bus routes that run East and West and connect to the Metro in KCMO across the state line.

Maybe $4 or $5 gas will create some opportunities for public transit that will outlast the expensive gas. I do believe we will not always pay so much for gas (maybe I am just a hopeless optimist!) and the challenge then will be whether people will still be responsible with petroleum usage when it doesn’t hurt the pocket book so much.


My comments above were limited to transportation alone. Anajz from The Sustainable Backyard furthers the discussion to the reality of the impact of the cost of gas on the rest of life in her post Making Choices with some very realistic observations of how the cost of gas is hurting the average person just trying to get to work, feed their family and pay their mortgage or rent - hard choices for how to split shrinking dollars between the growing costs of everyday life.


Additional Comments:

The cost of petroleum rolls out to everything we must purchase from "nuts to bolts" as they say, and most importantly to the cost of production, delivery and finally purchase of our food.

When I first heard of the food crisis and how expensive food would be getting I had the human survival urge to "hoard" food but I quickly came to the realization that most of us, and my family in particular will not go hungry...we will pay more for food and make serious life-style adjustments.

The less fortunate in our country and in the broader world will pay a much more significant price as costs rise and will have to make impossible choices about daily survival.

Food kitchens in the USA are seeing a growing population of the poor coming for aid at a time when their donations are dropping. In the hungry third world people are literally starving because the cost of food doubling and tripling actually takes food out of already starving mouths. Costs of petroleum on transportation of aid rations along with bio-fuels driving up the costs of food and literally "eating up" the surplus is devastating. Organizations like the World Food Programme, Oxfam, Heifer International and The American Red Cross all need donations to help meet the crisis of the shrinking dollar and rising food costs to help keep the people they serve alive.

As costs rise and dollars shrink, charity needs to abound. Innovations and invention will eventually help us all, but in the short term most of us will suffer the pain of this crisis, some will suffer, some will not survive. (And then some who have profiteered their way to obscene wealth in the economy boom we have experienced since the 1950's with all the excesses that have helped to create this crisis, may actually become even more wealthy. That is probably best left for another post.)

- Joy

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New York Says Thank You: Greensburg, Kansas

"An American Barn-Raising in Greensburg, Kansas on the 9/11 Anniversary 2008" Would you like to work "shoulder-to-shoulder" with New York City firefighters to help rebuild Greensburg, Kansas? Visit New York Says Thank You to learn of several ways that you can be there in person or through your generous giving. September 4 - 7, 2008, America's largest barn-raising will take place in Greensburg, Kansas as the FDNY, Ground Zero construction workers, 9/11 family members, New York City school children, and scores of other New Yorkers directly impacted by September 11th will come to say "thank you" for all the support they have received since 9/11/2001 by helping others who have suffered a catastrophic event. Ways you can help:
  • $250,000 worth of building supplies donations, contact: Jeff Parness
  • $50,000 cash donations to sponsor the NYC volunteer group, Donate Online
  • If you live near Greensburg, be one of hundreds of volunteers

Read more

....................................................................................... Greensburg, Kansas on Discovery Planet Green TV Sunday 8 PM Kansas Time (central time zone)

Check the GreenTV website for alternate air times.

Read more: Greensburg, a green phoenix rising.

Watch an exclusive online episode

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Best Alternative Fuel: Y.O.U.

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not." -Robert F. Kennedy

Oil will go bust. There is no question about it. We will finally develop the alternative energy sources that we should have been working on 50 years ago or maybe we should have been working on them as soon as Henry Ford started the first mass production assembly line of cars. Steam engines were one of the first used. It’s just too bad we didn’t continue looking for alternatives, but now we will do so forced by the rising price of oil. We will hit a ceiling that even the American consumers will refuse to pay.

Alternative fuels and public transit are the wave of our future. Welcome it, embrace it. Become the alternative fuel.

I propose this expansion on the 3 R's: Rethink, Reinvent, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

First of all we must rethink. This is the time for a renaissance of invention. We have the resources, we have the impetus, we have the mission. We must not keep doing things the same old way. Change is good. Being responsible with our natural resources and to our world-wide community does not mean we have to return to the stone age. I believe we are on the precipice of an explosion of invention. Remember: Necessity is the Mother of Invention.

We have to simply turn our approach upside down. Many people start with recycling. Flip that thought...and THINK. Rethink. Find new ways of doing things that don't waste resources. INVENT and re-Invent. Come up with new processes. Then reduce, reuse, recycle. It starts with each and everyone of us.

We must develop the belief and incorporate into our every thought that there are many great ideas and solutions waiting to be found. Believe it can be done. Believe in yourself. Believe in a higher power. Have faith. We have each been given a resource of unbelievable power - it sits on our shoulders enshrined in our skulls and covered (some more than others) with locks of hair. I hear that those bald heads are actually burning hotter and smarter and are a sign of genius maybe because they are unlocked. :-)

Worry and doubt are useless tools for finding solutions. Unleash your mind to begin working on solutions. The mind is a fascinating thing. From what I have read, the mind always thinks in the positive. If you say "I must not forget to go to the store," you are more likely to forget than if you say "I must remember to go to the store." This is why a "mantra" may actually work.

A saying from the Vedas claims that "Speech is the essence of humanity." All of what humanity thinks and ultimately becomes is determined by the expression of ideas and actions through speech and its derivative, writing. Everything, the Vedas maintain, comes into being through speech. Ideas remain unactualized until they are created through the power of speech. Similarly, The New Testament, Gospel of John, starts "In the beginning was The Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God..." (

So to summarize: Think it, Speak it, Invent it, Be it. YOU are the solution to our world energy challenges. Yes WE CAN. We can make a difference.

As a very wise and productive man once said, "See a snake, kill a snake." Sorry PETA, this is only a metaphor. It means if you see something that needs to be done, DO IT. YOU ARE THE ANSWER. BE THE ANSWER.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Fill the Cup

A simple cup of porridge: Solidarity with our Hungry Brothers and Sisters Many in the hungry third world are serviced by charitable food organizations such as the World Food Programme. The WFP concentrates on feeding children at school. This encourages school attendance along with providing nutrition to give the children a fighting chance at a better future. WFP provides one cup of corn meal/soy meal porridge or beans and rice. If available a cup of milk is also provided. For many children this may be their only meal of the day. The recent food crisis resulting in the price of grains shooting up 50% to 75% means that organizations like WFP now must try to provide food with the same funding base but only having 1/2 to 1/3 the buying power. This means the food does not stretch like it did before and not all the needs can be met. If you would like to really know what it is like to live on one meal of porridge a day, try what I call the "48-Hour Fill the Cup" challenge. Below is a recipe for corn meal porridge. Try eating nothing but a single serving of this porridge once per day for 2 full days or 48 hours. I suggest 48 hours since this amount of time gives you not only head-knowledge but full-body knowledge of what it feels like to live on this amount of food. (If you have any type of medical condition that would be adversely affected, do not try this.) WFP is currently holding a "Fill the Cup" campaign to raise funds. You might even calculate the money you save on meals during your 48-hour challenge and donate that amount to the World Food Programme. Cornmeal Porridge, one serving recipe

  • Place 1 cup soy milk (I use vanilla flavored) in a pan over medium heat.
  • In a measuring cup add 1/2 cup cold water and 1/4 cup corn meal.
  • Soak the corn meal until water is fully absorbed and then add to the warming soy milk.
  • Stir until thickened and serve in a large mug.

Drink lots of water throughout the 48 hours, but don't eat anything but one bowl of porridge a day. I kept a journal of how I felt and the ideas that floated by as the days worn on. You might consider that as well. I continued to do my work and house chores. On hour 49 I broke the challenge with cheese and crackers. Yes I am weak!

I don't recommend this as a long-term diet for obvious nutritional reasons. I also don't claim this to be an accurate recipe for what WFP serves, just a facsimile to give you a good idea what it is like to eat if you were living in the hungry third world. Hopefully it is thought provoking for you.

My follow up is in comments.

-Joy Fill the Cup! It takes just 25 cents (US Currency) to fill one of the red cups that the World Food Programme uses to give hungry school children a regular school meal of porridge, rice, or beans. US $1.50 would feed a child for a week. Help us fill the cup by making an online donation now. Fill the Cup is an international campaign to raise funds for the estimated 59 million children in the developing world who go to school on an empty stomach. From Africa and Asia to Latin America WFP free school meals are served up in 70 developing countries, encouraging poor families to send their children to class and laying the foundations for a better future. WFP estimates that providing free meals to all the world's hungry school children will cost about US $3 Billion per year.

Friends of the World Food Program Buzz it up

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Greensburg, Kansas - a green phoenix rising

What if...
What if you lost your home in a tragic storm?
Would you be able to stay with neighbors or family?
What if your entire city was flattened by a tornado?
Where would you go? What would you do?
What if you were a Greensburg, Kansas resident? You would pick up the pieces and put them back together better than before. You would design a model city. Out of the rubble of stricken Greensburg, new hope has grown and a new vision is becoming a reality. Greensburg is rebuilding Green.
Where others saw tragedy, Greensburg leaders saw hope The citizens of Greensburg, Kansas, population aproximately 1,500, have taken tragedy and turned it on its ear with big plans to rebuild as a model green city. Town leaders are determined to become the first town in the United States to have all municipal projects built to the highest environmental and efficiency design standards. By rebuilding green they hope to breath new life into a town that was dying long before the tornado ripped it apart.

Kansas was built by extremely strong, and strong-willed, people. They braved a lot of hardships to settle here, on the open prairie, and they tamed it and made it theirs. Their blood still runs in Kansans veins... We are a strong, moral people, and we don't let anything get us down for long. We pick up and go on and live life... more aware than most. - Anita Hohl, Greensburg resident

Turned Green by a Twister - Brian Walsh, Time Magazine

The tornado had measured EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, the highest possible rating, and it left hardly a single wall standing. "I could only think of Hiroshima," remembers Lonnie McCollum, then the town's mayor. "Big strong men looked at what was left and were damn near in tears." Over 1,000 people — more than two-thirds of the town's population — were left homeless. Despite the help that poured in over the following weeks from FEMA, from charities and from nearby towns, residents feared their town had suffered a deathblow. Like many rural Midwestern towns, Greensburg had been losing population for years. Jobs had grown scarce, and few in the town's shrinking high school classes stayed on after graduation. Why rebuild a dying town? "We were barely making it before the tornado," says Wylan Fleener, whose century-old furniture store was reduced to a pile of bricks by the storm. "I thought about leaving every day."

A tornado-razed town is rebuilding green - Eric Mack, Plenty

Despite the near total devastation of the town, it became apparent... that Greensburg is not the sad, grieving place you would expect. A wealth of energy and optimism has arisen here along with many residents’ hopes to rebuild as the “Greenest Town in America” - an energy-efficient, low carbon-emitting, sustainable phoenix, powered, at least in part, by the forces of nature that once reduced it to rubble. “About a week or two after the storm, I was talking with our previous mayor,” recalls Greensburg City Manager Steve Hewitt. “We said ‘There’s an opportunity here. We can do whatever we want to start fresh and make this town over with new parks and new buildings, so why not go green?’” Soon afterwards, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius came to visit and threw her support behind the idea of a new Greensburg Greentown,” as the project has come to be known. Some of the projects have confounded local residents who care more about getting life back to normal than saving the environment. Devastated by tornado, Kansas town rebuilds on green plan - Apr 20, 2008, GREENSBURG, Kansas (AFP)

"I don't know and I don't care, just put a grocery store in town," said senior citizen Margaret Janct when asked what she thought of the plans. Town leaders launched a non-profit group to teach residents how to improve efficiency and reduce their environmental impact in the old farmer spirit of doing more with less. "The process for us was getting the community to understand what building green meant, and diffusing political issues of environmentalism," said Greensburg GreenTown director Daniel Wallach.

Interview with resident Anita Hohl - Greensburg - GreenTown, 11/18/07

“Green” is intimidating to so many people. Green doesn't have to mean spending thousands on high tech equipment. Green also means small things like: recycling; reusing; compact fluorescent bulbs; buying used when you can; low-flow showerheads and shorter showers; composting food waste for your own garden, a neighbor's garden, or a community garden; buying and eating local, and in season; lowering the thermostat in the winter, raising it in the summer; turning off lights when not needed; turning off the tap when brushing your teeth; growing edible plants instead of grass and ornamental plants in their yard, or at least using native plants; even just using a clothesline. Every little bit not only saves the environment, it saves money in the long run. How about playing a board game or going for a bike ride with their kids instead of all sitting zoned out in front of the television, or in separate rooms doing separate things with half a dozen lights on? That is green, too. My Grandparents were my earliest influences. My Grandpa was a farmer; my Grandmother had been a school teacher. Their lives were the model for my anti-consumerism... "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" was never verbally stated, but that is how they lived their lives. I learned my love of home cooking, gardening, canning, and crafts from my Grandmother, too, as well as my love for nature itself. What if you could do something?

Does this inspire you? Want to do something to be part of the rebirth of this amazing town? Consider becoming a part of the green answer: One Million $5 Donations campaign In honor of Earth Day and of the first anniversary of the storm that catalyzed the rebuilding and reimagining of the town of Greensburg, we have launched our efforts to fund the Green Initiative in Greensburg. Through this campaign we aim to show that " a million small things make for big change". This fund raiser will provide a boost to realize the ambitious vision of Greensburg and simultaneously illustrate the concept that little changes by a lot of people will attain the global changes we seek. Donate now. Greensburg: a story of community rebuilding - Discovery Networks, Executive Producer Leonardo Dicaprio

Blown Away: Destroyed in Seconds - Greensburg, KS - DiscoveryChannel
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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Diet of Pickles, Rice and Potatoes: What the Crop?

Industrial Farming's Link to the Food Crisis

The recent issues with food scarcity around the world highlight the weaknesses that has been introduced by industrial farming. Always looking for ways to make the operation more profitable leads towards engineering diversity out of the food network. International corporations with loyalty only to their own interests invest capital where land and labor is cheapest but sell the produce where it will garner the highest return, taking food out of countries that can least afford to lose this sustenance. From the loss of local farms to the loss of variety on our dinner tables and even the loss of natural habitats and animal species industrial farming seem a soulless entity with no concern to the land resources it is ravishing and leaving wasted.

What happens in times of natural disaster or economic crisis when the diversity of our food network has been compromised? Read on for some current examples.

Food Riots Speak Loudly

Food riots around the world over the soaring costs of basic foods have brought the issue of poverty to a boiling point. World Bank President Robert Zoellick has said the surging costs could mean "seven lost years" in the fight against worldwide poverty.

"While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs, and it is getting more and more difficult every day," Zoellick said late last week in a speech opening meetings with finance ministers. (Read more...)

When Importing Goes Bad TOKYO, May 16 (Reuters) - Japan could find itself dining on rice, pickles and potatoes if global food supplies keep tightening and imports are cut off, the government warned on Friday.

Just 39 percent of food in Japan is produced at home, the lowest percentage among the major industrialised countries, raising alarm among officials over food security as supplies fall and prices soar. (Read more...)

Sustainable Agriculture Depends on Diversity

(SciDevNet) A variety of factors work against maintaining agricultural biodiversity. But among the most important is a lack of knowledge and awareness of agricultural diversity's intrinsic value to society, and its potential for development. Sustainable agricultural systems depend on a diversity of species to withstand attacks — from present and future diseases, pests, climate and other environmental changes — as well as unpredictable social, economic and market demands. (Read more...)

Monoagriculture and monocrops have other side effects. Reducing diversity in plant life also affects the wildlife that lives in the farming regions. Many native bird species are being driven to extinction because of loss of diverse food sources. (Read more...)

Vanishing Food Resources

(Green Living Tips) In the USA, only 5% of the apple varieties that existed 200 years ago still remain. In the UK, 90% of vegetable varieties have disappeared over the last century.

We are basically driving many of our food resources to extinction on purpose. Market control, aesthetics and shelf life reign over diversity and taste these days. Hybrid varieties are developed by companies for pest resistance, fast growth and uniformity; then marketed to a such a degree that traditional varieties lose popularity and disappear. They are also bred for qualities related to easy machine harvesting, long distance transport and refrigeration.

The seeds you buy at your nursery, even the fruit and vegetables you purchase from organic farms are likely to be these hybrid varieties. Another disturbing issue is just a handful of companies control the majority of the world's seed production and as a result, farmers and home gardeners are basically held to ransom. (Read more...)

Making a difference

There are people working to preserve biodiversity and also the heritage that plants hold. One for example is Seed Savers Exchange. Seed Savers Exchange was founded in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy, after her terminally-ill grandfather gave them the seeds of two garden plants, Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory and German Pink Tomato, that his parents brought from Bavaria when they immigrated to St. Lucas, Iowa in the 1870s.

SSE organization is saving the world’s diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, while educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity. Few gardeners comprehend the true scope of their garden heritage or how much is in immediate danger of being lost forever.

Another very interesting organization Kokopelli Seed Foundation promotes charitable donations of organic, heirloom seeds and seed-saving education to fight hunger in Third World poor countries. For an excellent and extensive article on the importance of biodiversity and dangers of monoagriculture, please read A Short History of Plant Breeding, from the early Beginnings up to modern Biotechnology by Jean Pierre Berlan, translation by Bernard Declercq featured on the Kokopelli site.

What you can do:

As a consumer: Look at labels and buy local. Local markets selling locally grown food strengthens the community. Shop farmers markets, buy and enjoy unique varieties and encourage the farmers you buy from to grow diverse crops. Consider a closer relationship with your food grower by joining a CSA - consumer supported agriculture coop. (CSA started in Japan and was called Teikei meaning "putting the farmer's face on food.") Encourage your local green grocer to shop locally to stock his or her market by letting them know you would prefer locally grown food.

Help the third world by donating to organizations like Action Against Hunger, Kokopelli Seed Foundation, OxFam, and Heifer International. Check Charity Navigator to find a charity that ranks highly in responsible use of funds.

Plant a Garden of Heirlooms and share the bounty of food and seeds with others: The Heirloom Vegetable Gardener's Assistant

Write and/or call the office of the President, your congresspersons and senators and encourage them to support a farm bill that builds stronger farm communites and builds a healthier environment.

Read more about what you can do about food security at Also read EDF, Grist and Center for Rural Affairs. Watch the show and read the site: World in Peril.

Gristmill: No Country for Poor (Wo)Men

Heifer International: Causes and Remedies for the Food Crisis - Dr. Jim DeVries, Heifer’s Vice President of Programs says, "it is becoming apparent that the industrial farming system is not sustainable. In the West, decentralizing production, with an increase in the number of family-sized farms or large family-operated farms that use methods that recycle agricultural byproducts would help improve the negative impacts of industrial agricultural production."

OFE articles: Biodiversity: why should you care?; The Big Story is Food; It May be Corny, but it ain't that Green

As a small farm farmer: Get more involved in connections between farmers and consumers by considering a Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) business model for your farm. Work with local green grocers to develop markets for unique crops. Also develop new markets with the growing number of organically inclined restaurants that could become regular customers for unique food crops. Contact an heirloom seed organization and explore growing a wider variety of crops.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Recycle Brita Filters!

--Press Release--
BRITA - We want your cartridges! Less Limescale, less chlorine, less waste 9 Jan 2008 Millions of households already choose BRITA filtered water for cleaner, clearer great tasting drinks; but did you know that BRITA is the only water filter brand to recycle its cartridges. In line with the growing consumer demand for greener living, BRITA has launched an in store recycling scheme, providing bins to collect its filter cartridges in a range of high street stores. The BRITA branded bins will be located next to the existing water filter fixture in store and can take all BRITA filter cartridges including those for BRITA jugs and the new BRITA water filter taps. It is hoped that by locating the bins beside the current water filter fixture, consumers will be reminded to return their used cartridges when they visit the store to purchase new ones.
This is great news! The only hitch? You have to fly to the UK to recycle your filters, and I don't think they will take the US model, even though the press release says they take "all BRITA filter cartridges." The US division was spun off and purchased by Clorox. Clorox is trying to look more green. We are still waiting to see if they are truly turning green or are just "green-washing" because it's trendy to be green and it's becoming great for business. They also recently purchased Burt's Bees for the products natural and sustainable product line. And that's not all, they have joined Nalgene bottles to cosponser a campaign called Filter for Good. Greenies are a new niche market they want to snag. According to Clorox's letter, "One pour-through filter can effectively replace 300 standard bottles of water (16.9oz)" and " 2006 Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles." OK, but, if all 50 billion water bottles were replaced by Brita filter systems, that would mean 167 million plastic filter cartridges sent to the landfill! Shame on Clorox! That looks a lot like "green-washing" to me! There is hope! I did a Google search hoping to find a way to recycle my Brita filter. I came up empty on recycling in the US. However, I found that I am not the only one concerned about all those American Brita filters sitting in US landfills...or where ever they end up. I came across a site called TakeBackTheFilter that is running a campaign to convince Clorox to be genuinely GREEN and set up a program so that all us in the USA can recycle our filters just like the Brits in the UK. *Here's what you can do to help - Go to the website. Sign the petition. Spread the word by adding a badge like the one you see on the left of this column to your own blog and then copy the email from the website and send it to friends and family that like filtered water but don't want to pollute with all those bulky plastic filters. THEN the best part: Send back the filter - The nice people at want you to send your used filters to them. They want to make a strong visual statement. Inspired by Jim McKenna's and John Lieberman's successful campaign to urge AOL to quit sending out unsolicited CDs, they're collecting used Brita filters, both pitcher and tap, to deliver to Clorox en masse at some point in the future. You know what I always is your opportunity to make a difference! You love Brita but you don't want all that plastic waste from the filters in your local landfill. Now do something! This is your chance to save the world. As Jack Bauer says, "Do It!" (tick, tick, tick, tick... the clock is running.) Even Jack is concerned about the environment these days. - Joy Buzz it up

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Invest Green - New Program for Organic and Sustainable Farmers

Looking for a new route to green your venture capitalism? Consider this.
Robert Karp, former director of Practical Farmers of Iowa, is launching a new program to help farmers committed to organic and sustainable agriculture start, maintain and grow their operations by linking them with socially motivated investors who will purchase the farmland they need and lease it to them on long-term, renewable leases with an option to buy. Mission: Promote organic and sustainable farming operations through investing What: A program designed for experienced organic and sustainable farmers who need additional land or need help maintaining their existing land base. I will help farmers who meet the criteria link up with a socially motivated investor who will purchase the farmland needed and lease it to the farmer on a long-term (up to fifteen-year), renewable lease. The lease will include an option to buy at a fair market value if the investor ever wants to sell the land. A conservation easement may also be put on the land to prevent non-farm development. The program is being piloted in 2008 through this Call for Pre-Applications. Who: Farmers may apply who can demonstrate a commitment to the core principles of organic/sustainable agriculture, have stable markets, and have been in business at least five years. Farmers should be able to offer, at minimum, a starting rental rate that is 4% of the land cost. (See detailed farmer criteria under #‘s 2 and 3 below). Where: The Call for Pre-Applications is being widely distributed in six states: Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. When: Read carefully the document below and send in a short letter as soon as possible, but no later than June 15, 2008, describing your farm and the investment you are proposing. New Spirit Ventures.pdf For more information for farmers and investors contact: Robert Karp New Spirit Ventures, LLC W2811 Friemoth Road East Troy, WI 53120 414-477-1170 Bio: Robert Karp Robert Karp has been a social entrepreneur in the local food movement for over fifteen years. He has helped start community supported agriculture projects (CSA’s), farmers’ markets, institutional buying projects and farmer-buyer-consumer cooperatives. He has led many educational efforts focused on helping farmers and wholesale food buyers build relationships and helped start the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” marketing campaign which now has chapters in over 25 states. Robert accomplished much of this while working for a non-profit farm organization called Practical Farmers of Iowa, where he served as Executive Director from 2001 to 2006. Originally from Janesville, Robert currently lives in Milwaukee and works on a freelance basis with a wide array of community-based organizations and businesses that are working to create a new future for the food system. ******* More for Opportunities for Farmers: Beginning Farmer Programs Local Producer Loan Program - Through the Local Producer Loan Program, Whole Foods Market makes $10 million available annually for low interest loans to small local producers. Eligible products include agricultural crops, value-added food products, and other all-natural grocery items. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Visit their site for specific information. More about CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) Buzz it up

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Big Story is Food: Cash Cows and Cowboy Starter Kits

Is it true that government farm subsidies are going to the wealthy and not to the family farms of America? What is the outcome of the subsidies? Why are Americans going hungry? We are facing instability in the US jobs market, foreclosures in the US housing market, and the US family farm is being overlooked by Congress yet again when we need family farms as much as they need the help of the subsidies. But where are the subsidies going? Bill Moyers: "What was supposed to be a temporary financial safety net for imperiled family farmers has become a huge boondoggle for a fraction of wealthy farmers, including landowners who've never gotten close enough to a barn to slip on the manure. But you don't have to take my word for it. Listen to a team of journalists from the Washington Post (Expose - Farm Subsidies) —which by the way, won six Pulitzer prizes this week." The Center for Rural Affairs asserts that, "The single most effective thing Congress could do to strengthen family farms is to stop subsidizing mega farms to drive their neighbors out of business by bidding land away from them. The 2007 Farm Bill should set an enforceable payment limits on loan deficiency payments, marketing loan gains, and all other income support payments. This limit should be strictly applied to everyone, regardless of how many corporations they create. The bill should eliminate loopholes that allow large operations to receive millions in loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains through generic certificates or by forfeiting commodities to USDA to pay off loans." The only way that Congress will ever care about rural development and family farming in general is if rural America builds connections with Urban and Suburban America to join forces in a common cause: the stability of our food basket. If our bread basket is empty, we cannot and we must not simply "eat cake" produced from grains grown in Argentina. We must remember and support the families that built our country by the sweat of the brow with their hands on the plow.

This is not out of charity but out of the knowledge that locally provided goods are far superior in multiple ways to those transported over long distances from mega-corporate farms. Not only is the quality of the product better, but the local commerce is better for the local community. Strong local communities equal a stronger America. What is that phrase??? Oh yeah, "all politics are local." Apparently not, if the farm bill subsidizes corporate farming to the harm of the family farm.

It's time for all Americans to realize that the pain of the rural American is the sign of a "heart" problem. We must all gain an understanding that the pain of the rural American is the pain of every American. City-folks wake up! The milk you drink for breakfast doesn't come from a carton and cereal doesn't come from a plastic bag.

Learn more about it: USDA - America's Farm Bill 2007 Current Updates: House Committee on Agriculture - Farm Bill Bill Moyers Journal, PBS, investigates the effect of the Farm Bill. Nature Conservancy Magazine: Read about the history of the farm bill, Green Fields. Plenty Magazine: The Farm Bill Explained - What's at stake for all of us Grist: Crunch Time for the Farm Bill Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill by Daniel Imhoff and Michael Pollan Blog for Rural America: The 2008 Farm Bill, A Slap in the Face Wikipedia: U.S. Farm Bill Take Action: Send a message to your Congressperson and Senators Buzz it up

Biodiversity. Why should you care?

Biodiversity is a term we hear a lot lately in the news. We are told that it is important, but what exactly is biodiversity? And why should you care? The ecosystem of our planet is an intricately woven fabric of life with many interdependencies. The greater the magnitude of biodiversity the healthier our ecosystem is. The Convention on Biological Diversity defines biodiversity as: "the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems." The Encyclopedia of the Earth describes the importance of this concept: "Biological diversity is of fundamental importance to the functioning of all natural and human-engineered ecosystems, and by extension to the ecosystem services that nature provides free of charge to human society. Living organisms play central roles in the cycles of major elements (carbon, nitrogen, and so on) and water in the environment, and diversity specifically is important in that these cycles require numerous interacting species." With the advent of "out-sourcing" our farming from local farms to corporate farming in the US and around the world, we have inadvertently diminished the biodiversity of our food. Corporate farming has aimed towards efficiency in supplying the foods we crave. This leads to finding food varieties that package well and are sturdy for the storage and transportation required to bring it across the many miles it often has to travel. Unique but more tender fruits and vegetables are either squeezed out by sturdier varieties or are more highly priced therefore economically squeezed out of the market. The efficiencies of corporate farming have poured ever increasing amounts of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers onto the land. This actually acts to diminish diversity and depletes the viability of the soil causing the need for more and more chemicals to force the land to produce. It also breaks the natural interaction that is produced by healthy biodiversity. We also lose in other ways when we out-source local farming to corporate farms. We lose the individuals that have helped build our nation and feed the world - the family farms. Family farms are struggling because we are buying our corporate-grown food at corporate stores which by-pass the local farmer. More and more, this food is coming from beyond our national borders where regulations are more lax. We are putting our food basket at risk by importing which puts the control of food in the hands of others and by farming in monocrops which weakens the ability of our food sources to withstand stress. We are in essence breaking down our human-diversity by allowing this to happen. If you think there is nothing you can do about this, think again. Your purse strings are your strongest vote. Buy local and buy responsibly grown food. Learn more about what you can do to encourage biodiversity: The Center for Biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History is a great resource for finding out about the subject. Read the module: Living with Biodiversity found on the AMHN site. This is a great place to start gaining understanding of the subject as it relates to your everyday life. Ten Simple Things You Can Do to Promote Biodiversity. Watch the following video and see what one person can do.

Only 17 but he is a Super-Hero of the Local Market

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Water, H2O = Life!

The only resource more precious than the air we breath, is the water we drink. The American Museum of Natural History, subject of the movie, A Night at the Museum starring Ben Stiller, is hosting a "must-see" exhibit: H2O=Life. If you will be visiting New York City between April 19 - May 25, 2008 a visit to the museum will be well worth the time. Tip: check out the NYC City Pass for discounts on several great outings including the American Museum of Natural History. If you don't buy the pass before you get to the museum, you can purchase it there and then you will also have discounts to some other must-see NYC attractions. The H2O website is itself interesting. You will learn a lot from reading it and it is beautifully illustrated. If you have never been to the museum you are in for a real treat. Just don't expect to view the entire museum in a day...week, or even a month. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes. You will only leave when your feet give out! I love this place. Description from the AMNH website:

Water unites us

Every language has a word for water; no living thing exists without water. It soothes the spirit and sustains the body; its beauty inspires art and music. Employed by cultures around the world in rituals and ceremonies, water bathes us from birth to death. Water is essential to life as we know it. And as it cycles from the air to the land to the sea and back again, water shapes our planet—and nearly every aspect of our lives.

Visit Water, H2O = Life and drink in the experience!

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Friday, April 18, 2008

NatGeo Human Footprint Predecessor - 2007 UK Documentary

The UK Human Footprint documentary, predecessor of the National Geographic Channel Human Footprint documentary, was aired last year on April 29th, 2007. I found the full 72 minute documentary online on Google videos and I bring it to you here. Enjoy, when you have over an hour of free time. If you watched the National Geographic channel documentary last week, you will find the UK perspective an interesting comparison to the US version. If you happened to miss the NatGeo Human Footprint last Sunday you will get a chance for an encore view this Sunday, 4 PM, Eastern time. Check for more listings in your area. Also of interest on NatGeo, Six Degrees Could Change the World, which will be aired Sunday, April 20, 2008 at 12 PM. The program visualizes the ecological impact that each degree increase could have on the future of our planet. Buzz it up

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