Primetime Green

Did anyone else happen to be hanging with their in-laws on Friday night and see this? I couldn’t believe GE would run it, and kept waiting for a trailer for the equal-time infomercial from Monsanto. Sure it’s in the works.

Greens and the Next-Bubble

I was passing around this video, via Grist, about ‘what french school kids eat’ to some friends of Mrs. Green this weekend and so I should share it here. Note the child-like presentation from CBS News, which says a lot about what they think of their audience. But also note that this was on CBS News. One of the most poignant philosophical lines in the report is when the chef says, “just because they can’t vote doesn’t mean we should shove crap in their face.” Touche’, mon frere.

Then there’s this article in the Washington Monthly on the Next Real Estate Boom. Guess where it’s going to be, and why:

The baby boom generation, defined as those born between 1946 and 1964, remains the largest demographic bloc in the United States. At approximately 77 million Americans, they are fully one-quarter of the population. With the leading edge of the boomers now approaching sixty-five years old, the group is finding that their suburban houses are too big. Their child-rearing days are ending, and all those empty rooms have to be heated, cooled, and cleaned, and the unused backyard maintained. Suburban houses can be socially isolating, especially as aging eyes and slower reflexes make driving everywhere less comfortable. Freedom for many in this generation means living in walkable, accessible communities with convenient transit linkages and good public services like libraries, cultural activities, and health care. Some boomers are drawn to cities. Others prefer to stay in the suburbs but want to trade in their large-lot single-family detached homes on cul-de-sacs for smaller-lot single-family homes, townhouses, and condos in or near burgeoning suburban town centers.

Generation Y has a different story. The second-largest generation in the country, born between 1977 and 1994 and numbering 76 million, millennials are leaving the nest. They may sometimes fall back into the nest, but eventually they find a place of their own for the first time. Following the lead of their older cousins, the much smaller generation X (those born between 1965 and 1976), a high proportion of millennials have a taste for vibrant, compact, and walkable communities full of economic, social, and recreational opportunities. Their aspirations have been informed by Friends and Sex in the City, shows set in walkable urban places, as opposed to their parents’ mid-century imagery of Leave It to Beaver and Brady Bunch, set in the drivable suburbs. Not surprisingly, fully 77 percent of millennials plan to live in America’s urban cores. The largest group of millennials began graduating from college in 2009, and if this group rents for the typical three years, from 2013 to 2018 there will be more aspiring first-time homebuyers in the American marketplace than ever before—and only half say they will be looking for drivable suburban homes. Reinforcing that trend, housing industry experts, like Todd Zimmerman of Zimmerman/Volk Associates, believe that this generation is more likely to plant roots in walkable urban areas and force local government to fix urban school districts rather than flee to the burbs for their schools.

Blocking out the Sun

Which we haven’t done yet. Though growing small crops inside dramatizes, among other things, just how much actual dirt land area is necessary, but it isn’t the future of farming.

At St. Philip’s Academy, leafy greens are planted in a cloth bed and irrigated with a nutrient-infused mist. Light is provided by LED lamps, which are more energy-efficient than conventional lighting and can be placed closer to the beds. The LED lamps also provide pest control, said AeroFarms’ chief executive, Ed Harwood, because they can be set to emit certain wavelengths that disrupt insects’ breeding.

AeroFarms is leasing the machine, which stands 7 feet tall by 10 feet long, to EcoVeggies for use in the pilot project at St. Philip’s. It can produce about 20 pounds of produce per harvest, Mr. Charles said.

Maybe they point that out as a kind of public service message. After all, this is a well-meaning, for-profit concern. The “former three Wall Street technology workers” [sic] is funny – how’s that for a pedigree? But it could just as easily be some good PR for actual farms – which it is, also. Plus the kids are probably picking up on it, too, as kids unintentionally do.

Farms still have to be dirty, stretch for miles and burn your arms in the sun.

Fill’er UP

Man, I love this.

It seems like we get everything from automated vending kiosks these days, from cash to DVDs to postal service to gasoline. The French have simply taken the next logical step. Putting a modern (and greener) spin on an old way of doing business, a French vendor has begun selling wine by volume from 500- and 1,000-liter vending pumps in French supermarkets. All customers need is a container.

Reaching back to a time when wine was sold in exactly the same fashion – that is, out of huge casks from which customers drew their desired quantity into their own containers for transport – the wine pumps achieve two separate goals that are often at odds with one another by providing at inexpensive product that also has a decreased carbon footprint. The wine goes for something like $2 a liter and, because it cuts down on costly packaging materials as well as packaging mass, it’s greener to transport as well.

When Mrs. G and I lived in the Vaucluse years ago, the pre-kid purpose of the kid’s seat on the bike was so that we could ride into the village and get the 5-liter jugs re-filled with red and rose at the local co-op. Yum-delicious and cheaper than water. And you would order from the attendant: “No. 11 and No. 8, SVP.” Young and light Cote du Rhone’s out of a gas nozzle; the question here now is where would such product will be coming from? Certainly capitalism in all its might can figure this out.

Then we’ll really be getting somewhere.


This is not at all unrelated to passage of the health care reform bill, health care generally, diet or the environment. What could be so voraciously dynamic as to pertain to all of these areas at once? Oh, and fits the truest definition of ‘teh socialism’ more than anything currently on offer?

Why – it’s high-fructose corn syrup, of course:

While there has been extensive evidence thatfructose is harmful to human health and associated with metabolic diseases like diabetes and liver problems, the fact is that plain old table sugar is itself 50 percent fructose. HFCS does have a higher concentration of fructose at 55 percent but it’s close enough to table sugar that most experts continue to dismiss claims that HFCS is on its own more dangerous. And certainly the claim that the introduction of HFCS in the ’80s directly led to the current obesity epidemic continues to be a highly controversial view.

You would have to be at least quadruple major in one of our finest business schools to qualify as a proper apologist defender for HFCS by now. Nothing stands for competition like monopoly sweetener like a substance we can manufacture and put all those little sugar cane-growing country out of business, all in one fell swoop. We must protect our vulnerable little farmers from the predations of those foreign sugar conglomerates.

Rejection of something real, with an actual purpose, in favor of something manufactured, that twists that purpose into something not only grotesque but literally poisonous on several levels, fits our collective sociopathy to an uncomfortably elegant tee. Systematic rejection and defense of this rejection as patriotic and/or linked to our very destiny as a country is something else, something I am unwilling to quantify with words – or maybe just the words I know now. Maybe I should collect my books and get on back to skewl.

Seeding the Playing Field

Monsanto, alfalfa and the Supreme Court:

In Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case which could have an enormous effect on the future of the American food industry. This is Monsanto’s third appeal of the case, and if they win a favorable ruling from the high court, a deregulated Monsanto may find itself in position to corner the markets of numerous U.S. crops, and to litigate conventional farmers into oblivion.

Here’s where it gets a bit dicier. Two Supreme Court justices have what appear to be direct conflicts of interest.

Stephen Breyer
Charles Breyer, the judge who ruled in the original decision of 2007 which is being appealed, is Stephen Breyer’s brother, who apparently views this as a conflict of interest and has recused himself.

Clarence Thomas
From the years 1976 – 1979, Thomas worked as an attorney for Monsanto. Thomas apparently does not see this as a conflict of interest and has not recused himself.

Fox, meet henhouse.

You get into power, or office or on the bench, and you forget everything that your office stands for. I remember being a long road trip one weekend during the Thomas’ confirmation hearings and listening to a lot of it on the radio. Maybe Thomas never knew what the position of SCJ stands for – or maybe he knew all along. That was why he could accept being put on the court the way he was. Either way, this is another monstrous example of why he was and is unfit for the court.

And Roberts whines about being criticized.


May all your greens come true.


And don’t forget to give peas a chance.

You and the Food You Rode In On

Over the course of six months living in rural France some years ago, I mysteriously lost about twelve pounds – without trying. Not only was I not trying to lose weight but, being on our second tour in the Vaucluse, Mrs. Green and I were in the throes of all of the delicious meats, vegetables, cheeses, fruits and local Rhone wines that were such an important part of living there. It can’t be overstated, the importance of the food to that place. In fact, besides the inexplicable late afternoon light, there is really not much else going there at all. Which is one reason why it’s a great place to write, among other things. Exercise consisted of mowing the acre out front of the farmhouse twice a month and biking 2 km to the village most every day. Which, when you think about it, is plenty.

But the point is, with all the chipolatas, Camembert, rose’, apricots and creme fraiche, coupled with a largely sedentary lifestyle,  I was baffled about the weight loss until I shared this with a friend upon our return. Without skipping a beat, she pointed out the obvious – that I had largely stopped eating processed food.

All that is to lead-in to this thoughtful post on the same subject, with some sliced media criticism on the side, by Juan Cole. Just go read it. Highly relevant to the current health care debates and everything green you might need to consider. At least on a quiet Sunday.

Arguing With Success

Tom Philpot at Grist links to this quote from Virginia farmer, Joel Salatin:

Number one is that it[industrial agriculture] destroys soil. Absolutely and completely. The soil is the only thread upon which civilization can exist, and it’s such a narrow strip around the globe if a person could ever realize that our existence depends on literally inches of active aerobic microbial life on terra firma, we might begin to appreciate the ecological umbilical to which we are all still attached. The food industry, I’m convinced, actually believes we don’t need soil to live. That we are more clever than that.

At the advent of industrial agriculture, right after the Great Depression and really catching fire right after World War II, the only consideration for the natural world was as an abstraction of our national heritage. We didn’t have a large body of oil paintings or bronze sculpture – Americans had land, mountains, canyons and sky, which we assumed went on forever and we owned. Environment as a resource was only concerned with economic determinism. No ideas of preservation, only the concept of a bottomless well. This is not castigation – it’s genuinely difficult to appreciate the past in its own time. During and after the Dust Bowl we couldn’t eat, and we recognized the fact that we couldn’t produce enough food on our farms. So we reacted, and brilliant technicians solved the problem, based on what we knew at the time.

There was no ecology, no environmental science much less any larger systems view as to how these elements of plantary ebb and flow worked together. And so the shift to industrial agriculture worked; we grow food in copious volume. It’s hard to argue down successful ventures.

But that’s exactly what we must be able to do, in a sense, in order to transition to something other than a catastrophe based on the multiple negative externalities that have been produced as a result of our great success. And they have been great. But now in possession of a greater consciousness – we can perceive the problems our actions create. Plus, as it is easy to see, we know much, much more, about our planet, our problems and our solutions. We know the problems are far more complex than is navigable with conventional responses. The non-safety, non-economic externalities are the ones that have caught up with our grand abilities to provide and prosper, which is why these are should be the first things to be brought into question, upon honest appraisal. Instead of twitching at the notion of lower inputs, we’ll have to bore into it with all we have and then some.

As a colleague said to me on this very note, “the science that got us into this situation will not be able to get us out.”