Cows Being Fed Candy- Coming Soon to a Burger Near You

English: Candy corn, specifically Brach's cand...

The heatwave and drought of 2012 is already effecting the food supply. With the skyrocketing price of corn,  at least one rancher has turned to a different source of food for his cattle.

In Mayfield, KY, Rancher Joseph Watson of Mayfield’s United Livestock Commodities, can no longer afford to feed corn to his 1,400 cattle.

“Just to be able to survive, we have to look for other sources of nutrition,” he said. Watson mixes the candy with an ethanol by-product and a mineral nutrient.

It’s creative at least, but nothing close to natural. I’m sure at least Joel Salatin is saying “Folks, This Ain’t Normal.” Hey, if you pass candy under a mass spectrometer, it still looks like corn, doesn’t it? After all, the candy is just high fructose corn syrup.

But, wait a minute…Cows are herbivores and meant to eat grass, so this just kicks our out- of-balance industrial farm system to a whole new level. Doesn’t it look like those cows are eating the expired candy in the wrappers? Bon Appetit.

 

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Joel Salatin: Folks This Ain’t Normal

UntitledI just finished the latest book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World, by farmer/author/educator extraordinaire Joel Salatin.

This book is overflowing with the type of contemplative life wisdom you’d expect from a Buddhist monk. Ponder this little gem: “In our Western Greco-Roman compartmentalized fragmented systematized linear reductionist individualized disconnected parts-oriented thinking, we tend to disassociate the seen from the unseen. We do so at our own peril. We are all, every one of us, simply a manifestation of this invisible world.”

And this one, Do you ever wonder why people have such an unprecedented demand for sensationalism, for fantasy, for celebrity? It’s because life without responsibility is boring. Personal responsibility is thrilling. Wow, what a ride! Sure, dependency is easier. It feeds my laziness, but it doesn’t feed my humanness.”

While you might not agree with everything in this book, you definitely appreciate Joel Salatin‘s perspective and his opinions on how to fix our broken food system, our broken selves and our broken world.

I’ll add, I met Mr. Salatin a couple of months ago at a speaking engagement he did at Camino de Paz Middle School in Santa Cruz, NM. He’s even more charming in person than his books convey and he has rightly earned the title (given him by the New York Times), “High Priest of the Pasture”.

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Food for Thought: A Brunch with Joel Salatin

UntitledYesterday was the 5th of May, Cinco de Mayo, a big celebration in Northern New Mexico, as you can imagine.

It was also the 350.org ‘s Connect the Dots event with actions going on worldwide like this one of firefighters in the Santa Fe Forest remembering the largest wildfire in New Mexico history that was connected to climate change.

My family and I spent our day at another lower profile, albeit just as important event, the Food for Thought brunch at the Camino de Paz School and Farm in Santa Cruz, New Mexico. The brunch’s guest speaker was Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.

Set in the idyllic country, 23 miles north of Santa Fe, Camino de Paz is a private Montessori middle school for students in grades 7-9. The farm provides a model classroom for the hands-on learning that goes on here. Camino de Paz is also a working biodynamic farm where the students tend to goats, sheep, horses, and chickens while raising crops that they sell along with their eggs, goat milk, and hand-made soaps through their CSA and a farmer’s market. Students even learn to use a QuickBooks program to manage their farm-related businesses.

UntitledThe young learners understand their connection to the earth and the larger eco-system around them. This observation wasn’t lost on Joel Salatin who spent the day before working with the students on the farm. Salatin lamented that today’s youth are at risk for hospitalization due to injury sustained from walking into utility poles while being consumed by looking at an electronic screen and wearing ear buds.

Looking slimmer than I’ve seen him in the past, Salatin talked about the unconditional love one receives from working on a sustainable organic farm. “The chicken’s not thinking about it’s divorce” and “the cow  doesn’t care about the Dow Jones Industrial Average.” The animals radiate complete love in being allowed to live their life to the fullest potential of their being while working as a partner in this symphony of creation.

Therein lies the physiological difference in how Salatin, the Camino de Paz kids, and local sustainable agriculture people view food differently from most the rest of the country. One this side, the small farm, sustainable foodies see our food system as biological; it has resiliency and can heal.

The corporate industrial agribusiness worldview is that this system is mechanical, reductionist, linear. That’s why, as Salatin puts it in an interview, “we can pull DNA structure and genes from a pig and put some in a pepper plant and some in a salmon and have a brand new life form; that’s a parts-oriented thing, like pieces of an engine.” The latter system lacks respect. As Joel calls it, honoring the “pigness of the pig” and the “cowness of the cow”.  And a society that views life with “that kind of conquistador, mechanical, disrespectful, manipulative mentality will soon view its citizens the same way and other cultures the same way,” asserts Salatin.

This was food for thought as we enjoyed the breeze, the love that created the delicious farm meal, and the interconnectedness of all life at Camino de Paz. For another course, check out Salatin’s new book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World.

 

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2012 Sea Turtle Nesting Season Begins In Florida

Hawksbill Turtle (details)

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Today, May 1st,  marks the first day of sea turtle nesting season in Florida. Sea turtles are such majestic creatures, reptiles who can trace their lineage back to prehistoric times. They have survived the test of time, but today, all seven species of sea turtles are endangered.  Three of these species-  the hawksbill, the kemp’s ridley (the tiniest and rarest sea turtle), and the leatherback ( at up to 1500 pounds, the world’s largest and fastest sea turtle) -are critically endangered. Critically endangered species are those whose numbers have or will decrease by 80% in three generations.

With five of the seven species of endangered sea turtles nesting on its beaches and over 90% of sea turtle activity in the United States occurring there, Floridians and the state’s cherished tourists have a great responsibility to preserve the habitat for these amazing animals.

Sea turtles have always faced many threats, but only recently have they faced the risk of survival from their biggest predator, humans. Both direct and indirect human contact has reduced the number of sea turtles today to all time lows.

From fishing lines to six-pack rings, to plastic bags, turtles are caught by and ingest large quantities of plastic each year. It is impossible to eliminate this scourge from the sea. One small counter measure is to reduce the use of plastic. In my last post, I talked about some cities that are working to ban plastic bags. These bags blanket the beach and the ocean. To our sea turtle friends, especially the leatherback, who eats a diet almost exclusively of jelly fish, these bags look like dinner. Make every visit to the beach a beach clean up.

Photos and maps related to Padre Island. Padre...

Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle Nesting(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other dangers sea turtles face are boat propellers, commercial fishing practices-like shrimp trawlers, long line fishing, and large net fishing-, and run-off from pesticides and human-made chemicals coming from the land.

Last fall, I wrote a post on how turtle hatchlings, looking for the brightest star on the horizon to orient themselves to return to sea, become disoriented from the bright night lights of beach establishments and go the wrong way. This often results in their death either from being run over by a car or dehydration. Volunteers tirelessly work every night of sea turtle season, watching turtle nests for hatchlings and when they go the wrong way, they try to catch them.

In 2011, Fort Lauderdale volunteers saved almost 14,000 baby sea turtles heading toward the bright lights of A1A. That might seem like a lot, but with only enough volunteers to monitor 33% of nests (clutches) and up to 100 hatchlings in a clutch, these numbers only reflect a small portion of disoriented hatchlings.

So, let’s honor the sea turtle by doing our part whether we live near the ocean or not.

-Reduce plastic use.

-Bring a bag to the beach for clean up whenever you go for pleasure. (Don’t expect someone else to do it. That’s how we got to where we are right now.)

-Be a responsible boater.

-Only eat fish that has been sustainably caught.

-Make sure your city enforces their turtle friendly lighting ordinance if you live in Fort Lauderdale or another coastal Florida city.

Sea Turtle Resources:

Turtle Hospital- Marathon, FL:  http://www.turtlehospital.org/

Sea Turtle Oversight Protection: http://seaturtleop.org/broward/

Global Sea Turtle Network: http://www.seaturtle.org/

Sea Turtle Conservancy: http://www.conserveturtles.org/seaturtleinformation.php

Read this Book:

 
You can only conserve what you love and after you read this book, by James Spotila, you will love sea turtles.♥

 

 

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On the Farm at Finca Luna Nueva

Finca Luna Nueva

The connectivity of life is easy to contemplate at New Chapter’s Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica. Nestled in the primary rainforest, Finca Luna Nueva is a 200 acre biodynamic organic farm and sustainable eco-lodge.

Biodynamic farming has its origins in the 1920s where farmers along with Rudolf Steiner developed fundamental principles linking the farm-organism to the larger cosmos. An organic biodynamic farm incorporates dynamic forces in nature, such as the cycles of the moon, into its farming methods.

Biodynamics also emphasizes a holistic approach to agriculture, where the interrelationships of the soil, plants and animals are taken into account in developing a self-sustaining farming system. With that said, the farm tour at Finca Luna Nueva was a real treat. To see a productive farm, set in a wildly biodiverse natural habitat as opposed to rows upon rows of monoculture, was like catching a glimpse through the window of time into another world of possibilities for our future.

Pig at Finca Luna NuevaPreserving species habitat and biodiversity, Finca Luna Nueva is working with the Children’s Eternal Rainforest to connect 182 acres of adjacent secondary forest to the 50,000 acres that are already a part of the Children’s Children’s Eternal Rainforest Conservation area. Biological or habitat corridors like these are important in the rainforest to rejoin ecosystems; restoring a connection that was broken due to human development. These kind of projects are going on throughout Costa Rica to restore the habitat destroyed by the deforestation of the past.

One of the most significant projects at Finca Luna Nueva is the Semillas Sagradas or Sacred Seeds Sanctuary. Home to around 300 neo-tropical medicinal plants, the Sacred Seed Sanctuary not only preserves these medicinal herbs, but also the traditions of the Central American indigenous people.

According to New Chapter CEO, Tom Newmark, we are losing rainforest at a rate of an acre/second and somewhere between 50-200 species on planet earth go extinct every day. Parallel to these extinctions, is the extinction of language and culture where someplace around the world a language dies every two weeks. Much to the peril of all humanity, indigenous people are seeing their historic connections severed.

Steven runs the Finca Luna Nueva farm and lodg...

Steven shows us vanilla seed pods.

The Sacred Seed Sanctuary project brings together the wisdom of the ethnobotanists along with the shamans and abuelas to preserve this sacred knowledge for humanity. Steven Farrell, who runs the operations at Finca Luna Nueva, told me that it can take up to six years to establish a plant in the Sacred Seed garden. For many neo-tropical medicinals, there are no written records. To establish a plant from the jungle to the Sanctuary often involved studying it to determine its botany and how it could be reproduced. Also, finding the precise location in the garden where the plant can survive takes time. Often plants are moved around to find the most optimal conditions for the species to flourish.

There is so much natural ancient wisdom to absorb at Finca Luna Nueva. The farm creates a sustainable vision for the future of humanity into a model we should all try to emulate.

Pura Vida!

Sacred Seeds – Finca Luna Nueva from Ashley Glenn on Vimeo.

 

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Biodiversity on a Fair Trade Coffee Farm in Costa Rica

On a recent visicoffee berriest to Monteverde, Costa Rica, I met Victor, a small coffee farmer and member of the  Coopesanta Elena. Made up of 75 small coffee producers, the cooperative members are committed to growing their crops in harmony with nature.

Victor’s farm is in fact teeming with biodiversity. From sloths hanging out in trees to a baby hummingbird nest in the middle of  a row of arabica coffee plants, the farm feels alive and in-sync with the larger ecosystem around it.

Stingless honeybees come to pollinate the crops and nest in a decomposing log. Victor’s farm also is home to a multitude of tree species, banana plants, vegetable crops and wildflowers. Grass-fed dairy cows keep the weeds in check by rotating around the farm. These cows also provide Victor with extra fertilizer for his soil.

The coffee berries are even hand picked at harvest time to ensure that only the best coffee goes to market. Although it may seem labor-intensive, hand picking also increases the farm’s crop yield as not all berries mature at the same time. It would be impossible for a machine to separate the ripe from the unripe, leaving a lot of waste behind.

Victor describes his coffee farm.Everything in Victor’s farm adds to the overall well-being of the eco-system. He even has an old tree, 30 feet or larger, in the center of a row of his coffee that is giving too much shade to all the plants around. Since preserving the habitat is so important, Victor leaves it standing and deals with the lower yield in that section of his farm.

The Café Monteverde produced from Victor’s coffee plants and the other growers in the cooperative was the first sustainable coffee project in Costa Rica (1989).  Sixty percent of Coopesanta Elena’s coffee is exported as whole beans, while the remaining product is roasted, packaged and sold locally in Monteverde and throughout Costa Rica. The coffee is fair trade certified.

 

hummingbird nest in Victor's coffee plants Victor demonstrates how they pick the berries.

 

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Endangered Baby Sea Turtles Die Because Fort Lauderdale Fails to Enforce Lighting Ordinance

N. Ft. Lauderdale Sea Turtle Lighitng IssuesClose to 90% of sea turtle nesting in the US occurs in Florida. The City of Fort Lauderdale advertises sea turtle nesting season (March-October) on its website.  Yet, Fort Lauderdale is also a city that prides itself as an international tourist destination.

Humans can create many perils for sea turtles during nesting season. These include plastic and other litter left on the beach that can entangle or block the sea turtle’s way and beach furniture that can entrap turtles. But, by far the worst hazard is beach lighting. This not only disorients sea turtle mothers laying their eggs, but creates a greater hazard for hatchlings confused by the light. Sea turtle hatchlings instinctively head in the direction of the brightest light. On a beach without humans, this would be toward the ocean.

In fact beach lighting puts baby sea turtles in such jeopardy of survival that Fort Lauderdale has a lighting ordinance on the books. Ft. Lauderdale Lighting Ordinance Sec. 6-51 states, “It is the policy of the City of Fort Lauderdale that no artificial light shall illuminate any area of the incorporated beaches of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.”…

Alas, laws only work as well as they are enforced and on Fort Lauderdale’s illuminated A1A, there isn’t a lot of enforcement going on. The result is as expected, new hatchlings, often 100% disoriented, head directly for the busy A1A strip. There they face dehydration, the risk of falling in a storm drain, and the worst scenario, being run over by cars cruising up and down the strip.

Thanks to STOP (Sea Turtle Oversight Protection), a group of tireless volunteers, thousands of baby sea turtles have been saved from certain death. But the volunteers can’t catch every disoriented hatchling every night, so many of them end their brief lives, under the wheels of a car on A1A. Much of this could be prevented if the city of Fort Lauderdale would enforce its own ordinance and protect these endangered sea turtles.

Mayor Jack Seiler‘s response to private citizen activists lobbying for stronger code enforcement has been one of effective avoidance. In response to turtle activist emails, Seiler countered “your facts are wrong.” But what are the ‘facts’ Mayor Seiler is referring to? Take a look at the embedded video and you can see the sea turtle disorientation from the failed enforcement of the lighting ordinance for yourself.  Visit this facebook page for the latest details.

Mayor Jack Seiler can be reached at jack.seiler@fortlauderdale.gov, jackseiler@aol.com

Fort Lauderdale City Hall – PHONE: 954-828-8000 

Complaints: http://ci.ftlaud.fl.us/contact.htm

City Mayor Jack Seiler – CELL: 954-562-0958    PHONE: 954-828-5003

City Manager Lee Feldman – PHONE: 954-828-5013

Commissioner Bruce Roberts – PHONE: 954-828-5004

Commissioner Charlotte E. Rodstrom – PHONE: 954-828-5923 – CELL: 954-292-9378

Commissioner Bobby DuBose – PHONE: 954-828-5004

Commissioner Romney Rogers – PHONE: 954-828-5004

 

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Global Warning, Our Oil Addiction and Living on a New Planet

Narrated by Leo DiCaprio, this clip is based on the book by Thom Hartmann, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It’s Too Late.

“Picture this, a blue planet protected by a thin layer of atmosphere that keeps temperature, air and water in perfect balance to maintain life. In the cold depths of space, this planet is a virtual paradise, the only one know of its kind. And, it is our planet, Earth. But something is wrong…human civilization and our relentless consumption has brought this planet to the brink. But specifically, our addiction to one single resource may push us over the edge. And, that resource is Oil.”

“So get educated, stay educated, so we can think for ourselves and join the fight to save this unique blue planet for future generations,” DiCaprio closes. But, this problem of climate change is not really just a problem for future generations. As author Bill McKibben argues in his new book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, we no longer live on the planet Earth where the climate has allowed human civilization to flourish over the past 10,000 years, but on a new planet with more erratic and extreme weather. McKibben calls the planet Eaarth. We are now living with human-induced climate change. While  hoping we can still return the concentration  of CO2 in our atmosphere to 350ppm (someday because even if we cut emissions to zero, we’ve already committed the planet to further warming), we must focus our efforts to adapt to that change. McKibben suggests lightly, carefully, gracefully with a focus on local systems.

350.org activity photo climate day 2009
Image via Wikipedia

We also must engage our political system. We’ve seen no seriousness or urgency out of the Senate as the Clean Energy and Climate Change bill languished. As McKibben writes in the Huffington Post (linked below), “Political time is in short supply, too. So far, of course, Washington has done nothing—the Senate is currently considering a watered-down version of a watered-down bill, one that would only apply to electric utilities and only cause the slowest of changes, and even that has not persuaded President Obama to knock heads. He’ll go after BP, but not the GOP—the bill’s great champion, John Kerry, summed up the prevailing strategy for winning votes: “We believe we have compromised significantly, and we’re prepared to compromise further.” “

We can still bring change through grassroots efforts, like those of 350.org, 1Sky and Repower America (links below) and also through the efforts of many individuals calling their Senators to tell them that we need a bill that addresses climate change, carbon pollution and clean energy now. Get educated, stay educated and get active. Your future is now.

Links to Help You Get Active on this Issue:

Where to Find my U.S. Senators Contact Info

Repower America: Together, We Can Solve It

350.org

1Sky

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Gulf Oil Spill Teaching Resources

Earthprint-logo-oceans

Image by Earthprints via Flickr

Windows to the Universe – from the educators at Windows to the Universe, a compilation of classroom activities for teachers and educators who wish to address oil spills and the effects of oil spills with students.

From the National Environmental Education Week newsletter:

  • Information on Bird Impacts from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill from the American Bird Conservancy
  • NWF Eco-Schools Special Report from the NWF (with and amazing perspective on the size of the spill –by looking as if it were in your own neighborhood)
  • Gulf Oil Spill Interactive Resources from the Smithsonian Institute
  • The Physics Of Oil Spills – interactive feature on MSNBC’s website provides an overview of the physics behind an oil spill
  • GOMEEN– Gulf Of Mexico Alliance Environmental Education Network has several links to lesson plans on oil spills
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    Florida’s Great Senator- The Oldest Cypress Tree in North America

    Senator CypressEvery young student can tell you what are the biggest theme-park attractions in Orlando.  But probably very few can tell you about Big Tree Park, home Florida’s oldest and most distinguished resident, the Senator bald cypress tree. Located in Longwood, FL , the Senator majestically looms high as if he could touch the clouds, above a land blanketed with way too many strip malls and concrete.

    Big Tree Park, part of the Spring Hammock Preserve is a nice reprieve from the modernized world and also a nice glimpse back at what Florida’s past must have looked like. Its amazing that the Senator still exists and wasn’t a casualty along the road of Florida’s development frenzy. (In fact, cypress wood was highly prized  for building by early Floridians, as the heartwood is famous for its resistance to insects and decay.  This characteristic is only found in very old cypress trees.)

    The Senator has the the distinction of being the oldest cypress tree in North America and also the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi River. Its estimated to be 3500 years old,  and according to Wikipedia, the fifth oldest tree in the world. It is 125 feet (38 m) tall, with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 m). As you can read from the dedication plaque, the Seminole Indians and other Native Americans Indians used the tree as a landmark. In 1925, a hurricane destroyed the top of  the tree, reducing its height by 47 feet.

    Continue down the boardwalk and you will meet the Senator’s companion, Lady Liberty, a mere 2,000 years young.

    Park admission is free and it is usually not very busy. I like to visit the Senator in different seasons. Its like returning to see an old friend, there is always something different and interesting going on.

    Its almost impossible to capture the massiveness of the Senator cypress in a photo. To appreciate it, you will just have to visit in person (about a half hour drive from downtown Orlando).


    Map Symbol Maps with Driving Directions [Seminole County Disclaimer]
    Location: West of U.S. 17-92  at 761 General Hutchinson Parkway Longwood, FL 32750
    Hours: The park hours are 8:00 a.m. to sunset seven days a week 363 days a year. (Note:Parks Close at 5pm on the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.)The park is closed for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
    Contact: 407-665-2001

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    Plus 10 Reasons to Plant (Native to Your Area) Trees in Your Neighborhood

    1. Trees Give us Clean Fresh Air– Trees absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. Every mature urban tree removes up to 26 pounds of carbon dioxide and releases 13 pounds of oxygen into the air each year.

    2. Trees Cool Our Earth– Trees cool the earth by giving us shade and by transpiring water through their leaves. Trees are known as carbon sinks because they remove the heat-trapping greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide from the air and store it.

    3.Trees Act As Wind Break in a Storm or Hurricane-Trees that are planted and maintained correctly, serve as barriers against strong winds.

    4. Trees Clean Our Water– Roots absorb and remove pollutants from the water that recharges our drinking water aquifer.

    5. Trees Reduce Storm Runoff and Protect Against Topsoil Erosion– Humans need fertile topsoil to grow crops. The roots of trees hold onto the soil and save it from erosion.

    6. Trees Provide Habitat for Native Wildlife and Migrating Birds– Trees provide nectar, nuts sees and fruit for wildlife to eat. Trees also provide another component of habitat, shelter and a place to raise young.

    7. Trees Provide Food For Humans As Well.

    8. Trees Increase Property Values and Add Beauty to the Landscape– Well cared for trees add 5-7% to the sale price of a home.

    9. Trees Contribute to Community Pride and Peace– Urban communities with trees are more peaceful, quiet, and cooler and act as a deterrent to crime.

    10. Without Trees There Would Be No Humans– Trees play a vital role in our planet’s ecosystems. The Amazon rainforest has been named the “Lungs of the Planet” because it provides the essential service of recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen and  produces nearly 20% of the world’s oxygen.

    More info on Trees:

    Florida Urban Forestry Council

    Treelink.org

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