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

Buzz it up

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!

Buzz it up

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It may be corny but it ain't that green. The truth about biofuels.

The real irony about biofuels from corn is that they just aren't as "green" as once was thought. It takes a lot of energy resources to produce corn and then process it into a biofuel. Also land is being stripped of essential growth in the South American rain forests to make room for corn fields. Land formally set aside to lay fallow in the US is being opened up for biofuel crops instead of allowing it to rest and restore itself through natural processes. Animals are losing essential habitats and we are losing biodiversity. "The sorts of problems that biofuels are causing are irreversible,'' Robert Bailey, policy adviser to the development charity Oxfam, said in a telephone interview. "If rainforest gets chopped down, it's gone forever. If somebody loses access to food, they become malnourished, their physical and mental development is impaired and they may die.'' See Biofuels do More Harm than Good. According to a study, co-authored by Joe Fargione, a regional scientist for the Conservancy, “converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a ‘biofuel carbon debt’ by releasing 17 to 420 times more carbon dioxide than the fossil fuels they replace." The land used to grow crops for biofuels has to undergo intensive farming techniques that will add stress to the environment in the form of additional pesticides and fertilizers in the soil and ground water. Left fallow, the soil would be rebuilt through the natural grasses that would be allowed to thrive and breakdown in the soil but intensive farming will leave the soil depleted and unable to produce without continuing to add more and more chemical nutrients. The real kicker is that biofuels from corn crops cannot be produced in large enough quantities to give any real independence from fossil fuels. In addition, diverting corn crops to biofuels reduces the amount of food that is grown for our ever more hungry world. When corn is diverted to make ethanol, then the cost of corn goes up. If farmers can make more money planting corn, they plant more corn and less wheat. Then the price of wheat rises. With fewer grains being grown for food, there is less food to feed farm animals and the cost of meat, eggs, and dairy product rise. The delicate balance of our food basket is tipping at an alarming rate. Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, the Consulting Editor of The Economic Times, India's largest financial daily writes in an article for, "Ironically, even if the US and Europe meet their biofuel targets, these will meet only 6% of their transport fuel needs. So, mandated biofuel use cannot give the West independence from Middle East oil supplies. But it can cause hunger and death for millions of poor people by raising food prices. Many green groups that claim to speak for the hungry millions have been deafeningly silent about the terrible impact of mandatory biofuel targets in the US and Europe, since the greens once led agitations for those very biofuel policies, blissfully ignorant of the consequences for the poor. Today you hear of activists appealing for more food aid, but no agitation for abolishing the insane, inhuman policy of mandatory biofuel targets. Biofuels endangering habitats For more information on this topic: Buzz it up

Recycling is good right?

Don't be fooled by all the promotional campaigns that suggest recycling will solve all environmental issues...especially if it is a public service announcement from a plastics association.

When we look at the responsible waste hierarchy, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", recycling is at the bottom of the list."The aim of the waste hierarchy is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste." The real kicker is that it takes energy to recycle all the disposable products we use. They have to be transported and processed. Less than half of the items that can be recycled actually are recycled so the other 50% or more is destined to a long life in the local landfill.

Just how long will that pop can take to degrade? The Lawrence Journal Herald says about half as long as it would take that plastic water bottle you just tossed out. The water bottle will take about 450 years. What about that glass beer bottle? That will live for millenia in the dump if not recycled.

Tim Lang, Sustainability Coordinator of the University of Toronto, notes that many people think of the concept of Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle as three equal options, but they are instead meant to be a hierarchy, in order of importance. “This distinction is lost on many people. They focus on recycling, but recycling is meant to be the last of those three options. Recycling only comes into the equation when you have something you must dispose of,” he says. “If you don’t generate the waste in the first place, then you don’t have to figure out how to deal with it. Many people forget that if you reduce the amount of waste you produce, or re-use it, then you will have also less material to throw out or recycle.”

Top of the list: Reduce! You can cut way down on the number of disposable items you use a year. For example, if you don't need a disposable shopping bag, refuse it at the store. For those quick trips when you purchase one or two items a bag isn't really necessary. For your weekly shopping trips, make a simple change: the smartest choice is a durable, reusable bag. Buy in bulk to reduce packaging. Buy items that are simply packaged.

Waste disposal technicians have added a 4th R to the hierarchy: Re-think. Re-think before you buy. Do you really need it? Do you already have something that will fill the need? Can you buy it used? Better yet, can you borrow it from a friend if it is something you only use occasionally?

Recycling is good. Reuse is better. Reduction of disposable items in our environment is best. Most importantly, re-think how you do things.

Tim Lang states this well, “A lot of people associate sustainability with big fancy initiatives, but sustainability is really an attitude and an approach that we can build into our everyday lives, and there are many little things we can do that make a difference.”

Tips from for making your recycling greener, and yes, it does involve some re-thinking about reducing, and reusing too! Recycling Statistics in the US How to recycle practically everything

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

College where Green is more than Ivy on the Walls.

What do kids learn in college these days? If they attend St John Fisher College they have the opportunity to learn how to reduce their carbon footprint and that of their college as well. I present to you a guest Essayist who really "gets it". College employee, Linda Seavy, Recycling Committee Co-chair and office manager of the college library, is a woman with ingenuity and insight. Linda joined the College's Recycling Committee because she believed that everyone who cares about the environment should participate. She is now a co-chair of the committee. This year alone, the committee has been able to implement many new things including the first paper-free recycling guidelines campaign; participation in a nationwide recycling contest; the creation of a website, Fisher Goes Green, to provide information on how everyone can help the environment and efforts are underway to start a student environmental club. Click on the link to read her essay as published in the Cardinal Courier Online, college newspaper of St John Fisher College, Rochester, NY. Guest Essayist: All students should take part in efforts - Viewpoint College Sustainability Report Card. College campuses across the United States and Canada are stepping up green practices and policies, with more than two out of three schools showing improved performance over the last year, according to the new College Sustainability Report Card 2008. Buzz it up

KU National Champs 2008!

Buzz it up

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rock Chalk Jayhawk KU! Final Four Victory!

Kansas Head Coach Bill Self signals victory to a national audience after defeating North Carolina on Saturday, April 5, 2008 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tx.

What do basketball and sustainable living have in common?

Let me explain. Integral to the philosophy of sustainable living is being involved with your community. So my husband and I felt there was no better place to watch the Jayhawks final four game than sitting in Freestate Brewery in Lawrence, Kansas knocking down some locally brewed beer and cheering along with other KU fans. And undoubtedly, there was no better place to celebrate their victory than on Massachusetts Street with an estimated 25,000 (according to reports from a state trooper) more wildly happy fans.

Better than sitting at home on the couch watching the game on the big screen in high def? Absolutely!

It was a spontaneous celebration equal to Mardi Gras, New Years Eve, and the Fourth of July all rolled in to one. Best poster seen on the street: Roy-Demption - Self-Satisfaction. In case you missed the game or just want to watch it again: Launch Player Picture of the Mayhem on Massachusetts Street, Saturday, April 5th, (KCTV5) Now you have it. My picture is on the blog. Really, I'm in there, just keep looking. Enjoy...the final four rap...comments on Roy-demption.

Buzz it up

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Big Sky, Open Prairie, Too much Ozone?

Home, home on the range, Where the deer and the antelope play, And seldom is heard, A discouraging word, And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Contrary to the peaceful refrains of its state song, western Kansas, big sky and open prairie, has been found to have unhealthy levels of ozone during the summer months. How you ask? Are the prairie dogs kicking up trouble? Oh no, not at all. The ozone is apparently wafting over from Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma. Karen Dillon, of The Kansas City Star, wrote in her article Here’s a surprise: Air pollution in Western Kansas published on March 26, 2008 that "government data show that during summer months, ozone sometimes hit unhealthy levels." Environmental problems are rarely self-contained to a single offending location but, as these studies have shown, the nasty habits of one population can float to near or not-so-nearby neighbors. The same has been seen with groundwater pollution, and more obvious in visable river and streamway pollution. All of us on planet Earth share the natural resources. The air we breath circulates around the entire planet. The oceans move in currents to every shore on the globe. As big as the problem is, the answer starts with each individual person making the right decisions daily to live sustainably and eco-responsibly. It's like any looming task. It can only be conquered by positive effort, one step at a time. Twelve-Step programs teach that the first step to positive change is realizing you have a problem. I propose that all who dwell together on planet Earth, need to take a walk down "Twelve-step Lane". Serge Prengel, personal life coach, has undertaken a re-writing of the traditional Twelve Steps in his workbook, Proactive Change: 12 Steps Workbook. Serge offers the book as a free download. He has taken the 12 Steps which originate with Alcoholic Anonymous and adapted by numerous other self-help programs and put them in clear terms to which we can all relate. Serge writes this about step one:
A new beginning Somebody once said: If the only tool you have is a hammer, you try to solve everything by hammering. Well, if the hammer is not solving the problem, it may very well be time to try something else. The problem is, you may feel the hammer really should be working...that it will actually work if you just try a little longer... There's nothing wrong with persistence, but Step One introduces another consideration: accountability. It is not enough to say: I believe it will work one day if I just keep trying. You need to set goals and deadlines. Not for the sake of putting pressure on yourself...but in order to face the reality of what is happening. Step one looks squarely at reality.
We must each take the first step, look squarely at reality, and acknowledge that we are wasteful and thoughtless towards our home, the Earth which we all share and will leave as a legacy to generations to come. It was not until I started writing this blog about sustainable living that I began to truly see how wasteful my own lifestyle was, even though I felt I was fairly responsible. As I research the topic, the veil is being peeled away from my eyes. There is so much to do, but it all starts here with me and with you. First, acknowlege that there is a problem and that you are part of the cause of the problem. What we have been doing to "solve" our environmental and climate problems have not been working. If we keep doing the same things we will continue to get the same results. It's time to get committed and get creative. We can solve this problem. We can change the future of our planet and our decendents who must live on the Earth that we leave them. Repeat after me:
I am a consume-a-holic. I am addicted to fast food and disposable products and thoughtlessly consume resources without considering the negative impact I am having on the environment and all those who live with me on this earth. I have been in denial, but now I recognize that pollution and over-consumption is MY problem too and our ecosystem is suffering. Step one of twelve steps: "I recognize that it makes no sense to keep trying to solve my problems with 'solutions' that aren't working." I will find one thing this week that I can do that will make a positive change!

Now, don't you feel better? Now take some action. Check out Annie Leonard's 10 Little and Big Things You can Do for a start. While you are there, take some time to watch her video The Story of Stuff. Pick one thing you will do differently this week. And then do it again next week. Develop earth-positive habits and reduce your carbon footprint! Buzz it up

Site Stats

View My Stats On StatCounter

About Our Friendly Earth