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
Buzz it up

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.

Buzz it up

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

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