Where Does My Food Come From?

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In Denver, i’ve noticed, it’s quite the movement; urban farming. In fact, there’s a lot of talk about food in general – and i’m not talking about the plethora of astounding restaurants and cuisines offered by this lovely city (duly noted).

I’m talking about growing food on apartment rooftops, setting aside a 1/2 acre of urban land for food cultivation, starting a community garden, or growing edible plants indoors! That’s the movement. And it’s saving the planet.

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Now, people have been doing this for years, so it’s not necessarily the novelty of urban farming that’s so attractive, by rather the shortcomings — and therefore pressures — of industrialized farming and globalization that have created the movement to localize food production, and grow it in cities. Which IS new.

What has happened, starting in the early 19th century, is that food production has become highly industrialized and globalized in an effort to increase efficiency, feed more mouths, and share tasty products from around the world. It’s been an amazing journey from when, just 200 years previous, 80 % of all laborers worked (in one way or another) in agriculture. Today, that number hovers between 2 and 3 %. A movement, indeed.

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But the journey has created some significant, and disguised, problems: when I go to the super market to buy bananas, I can be nearly guaranteed the tiny sticker stuck to the bunch reads “Chiquita.”

Why is that an issue? Well, that means the banana most likely came from Central America (perhaps Guatemala, to be more precise).

And that’s an issue because it requires a HUGE amount of resources: fuel, labor, time, and infrastructure, to transport said banana from Villa Nueva, Guatemala to Denver, Colorado. Which also means the burning of thousands and millions of gallons of oil for shipping. Globalization, for all its benefits, has a huge pitfall – It is grossly environmentally detrimental to ship an almond from California to Asia. Regardless of whether it makes fiscal sense for The Almond Company to ship them.

As example…

“April 23, 2009 The Guardian has reported on new research showing that in one year, a single large container ship can emit cancer and asthma-causing pollutants equivalent to that of 50 million cars. The low grade bunker fuel used by the worlds 90,000 cargo ships contains up to 2,000 times the amount of sulfur compared to diesel fuel used in automobiles. The recent boom in the global trade of manufactured goods has also resulted in a new breed of super sized container ship which consume fuel not by the gallons, but by tons per hour, and shipping now accounts for 90% of global trade by volume.”

(Here’s the link to the full article)

The other issue is that industrialized farming requires incredible amounts of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, which can (and has) upset natures balance between plant and animal species, often hurtling colloquial environments into chaos. Just take the honey bee, as example. Globally, bee enthusiasts are in panic due to the effect of some farming chemicals to a bees sense of direction, in which they lose their ability to find their hive and die!

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Industrialized farming is a major problem for bee survival, and subsequently, our survival.


So, there are two fronts to this battle, and urban farming strives to negate both. Healthier forms of production and a reduction of resources to transport food! A win-win-win for plants, animals, and humans.

But there are some sacrifices needed down the road…

First, humans are going to need to abandon the idea that they can go to the grocery store any time of year and have a perfect tomato, blueberry and grapefruit on the shelf. Those growing seasons don’t all align, and those foods *might* require long distance shipping.

Second, the average American, say, is going to need to take more time understanding plants. I mean, christ, elementary school children can more easily identify company logos than types of fruits and vegetables. That’s just messed up.

Third, we are going to need to start eating more local based plants. It makes greater economic and environmental sense to grow a local variety of grain in Colorado more-so than wheat. Yet Colorado grows wheat because people like bread. And it’s costly and more energy intensive.

Because fresh water and soil are such valuable resources, we, as humans, cannot just go about planting plants where the environment doesn’t have a natural affinity. We can’t afford to waste water and soil simply because we like bread. There are other options.


But I have good news, too. These sacrifices can be easily diminished by growing your own food! And if you want that tomato during winter, build a greenhouse! Start by practicing with something easy like potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, or corn – or better yet, a local edible plant variety!

Instead of going to the store and buying a tomato from Texas or California, grow it yourself.

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It can be as simple as a small balcony garden bed with some herbs in it. Or it can be as complicated as a large-scale hydroponic, permaculture rooftop garden! There are people out there with some amazing and technical operations to learn from – all you have to do is look.

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And there are enormous benefits to urban gardening beyond saving resources!

Food creates community.

Start planting plants in your front yard and I guarantee neighbors and passerby will notice and question! And maybe even join… Plus, gardening is fun and rewarding. The kale you grow with your own hands tastes better than the kale shipped from California. Fact. 😉

So It’s time you start asking the question: Where does my food come from?

Because food matters.

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The Failing Environmental Movement.

“Environmental Failure: A Case for a New Green Politics”

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Have you ever put much thought into what environmentalists have been doing? Where the Green Movement has been moving? Success? Failure?

Well, research “environmental movement” … it doesn’t exactly contain the fairytale ending so many might be hoping for… in fact, much worse than expected, too.

We quickly find out that, for lack of better words, scientists are freaking out.

Gives me anxiety…

Here’s an interesting interview/article outlining some of the issues we will face/have been facing:

It’s titled,
“James Gustave Speth talks with Yale e360 about building a new environmentalism”

This is the opening line is,

“The U.S. environmental movement is failing – by any measure, the state of the earth has never been more dire. What’s needed, a leading environmentalist writes, is a new, inclusive green politics that challenges basic assumptions about consumerism and unlimited growth.”

For full article, click here.

But what’s most interesting is the audio recording on the website. Listen to it. It’s powerful.

Speth walks the listener through the history of the environmental movement, his personal experiences leading the movement, expresses failures and successes, an objective look, etc….

His testimony is well heard. Climate change is more alarming than we thought.

How does this make you feel?
What do you think should be done?

Daunting… I know.

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The GrowHaus

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I mentioned The GrowHaus (a nonprofit organization in Denver, CO) before. Today I wanted to delve more into this organization, perhaps highlight some of their best practices, and see exactly what they do, and, more importantly, why they’re good at what they do.

To start, check out their website. Pretty sweet. Upon first entry to the site you’re confronted with a powerful statement:

“Healthy food is a right, not a privilege”

I like it. Lets dig deeper.

As they say, “The GrowHaus is a nonprofit indoor farm in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood. Our vision is to catalyze a neighborhood-based food system in our community that is healthy, equitable, and resident-driven.”

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Sorry to disappoint, but it’s not a marijuana grow-op. I mean, the name “GrowHaus” sure sounds like it. But really, it’s about food. Fresh food. Good food. Healthy food.

Check out this video. It really breaks down the thought-process of the organization: what it’s objectives are, how it meets these objectives, why it exists, intelligent solutions to real world problems, and more. Watch it!

Less than Walmart prices? Did I hear that correctly? Makes us wonder what the real cost of food is….


I travelled to Colorado three times in the past year, visiting the GrowHaus twice. It’s located in downtown Denver, in a poor, heavily Latino populated community.

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It’s in a neighborhood accompanied with several sets of train tracks – whistles blaring nearly every hour. There’s also an overpowering, industrial smell of processed dog food floating outside everywhere. Dog chow smells.

Outside, The GrowHaus looks like an old factory building with some graffiti…

… Walk inside, however, and you’re immediately greeted with smiling faces and a kind “hello.” It’s a welcoming place. Warm. Friendly.

Turning to your right: you see refrigerators, desks, and staff, surrounded by lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, kale, urugula, and fresh veggies in neat baskets with little price tags dangling off them. Turning to your left: a speaker lecturing a half dozen Latina women about some new permaculture principle or teaching how to cook with a particular kale variety. Walk to the “back” of the room and it opens up into the farm: a gigantic set of rooms filled with caged rabbits, fish, filters and water tanks, aquaponic systems, lettuces being grown in long hydroponic rows, workers bustling around…

and this.

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I took these two photos on my second visit… Take them (it) in. Absorb its genius!

These are “permaculture principles.” And they don’t just apply to food… not by a long shot. This is a system of living. I talked about permaculture previously, so I won’t say much now. Suffice it to say it’s a system of values with positive reinforcement, intelligent and intentional design, and stimulating processes. Beautiful, really.


So the GrowHaus…

…  Teaches: anyone that walks through their doors; people of any social class, any background. They grow food: locally based, responsibly created, organically induced, simply designed. They encourage sustainable activity: resourcefulness, thoughtfulness, and constant innovation. They inspire: do it yourself, create, distribute, share (and aspire).

In other words, they change lives through food.

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Perhaps the greatest of all their gifts is their adherence to these principles of permaculture. As previously stated, it’s a system of living, not an action.

In the end, though…

… They inspire the downtrodden with a smile, a class, a lesson, a growing technique, a rabbit, a chicken, a community. They remind everyone that they’re not alone, and that others care. That gift, is invaluable.


(Amazing, what community does… isn’t it?)

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Human Impact on Earth.

A facebook friend shared this link, which presented photos of human impact on specific and diverse areas of earth, earlier today. I fell in love… in a twisted, cynical way.

Here are some of those photographs, for your pleasure. Enjoy… our haunting footprint.

1. A surfer riding a wave of trash.

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2. Industrial Beef Farm

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3. Plastic moving up the life cycle.

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4. Deepwater Horizon Crisis… A well deserved “slap on the wrist” for BP.

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5. Alberta Tar Sands, where there was once a boreal forest

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6. Deforestation in Brazil.

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7. Crop desert in China. No room for nature, here.

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8. Kern River Oil Field, California. Cheap oil has paid its price…. somewhere.

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9. Mexico City, “Urban Sprawl”

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10. Kowloon City in Hong Kong

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11. Deforestation in British Columbia, Canada.

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I just don’t understand those who claim humans are too insignificant to create global changes on earth… Travel, perhaps?

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California’s Drought.

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An article in National Geographic explains the crisis in California due to water shortages more thoroughly. Here’s the gist:

“Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown announced his state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions, in an effort to cope with four years of the worst drought in the state’s history.” (Full Article, Here.)

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Again, real consequences that need to be addressed. It’s extremely frustrating that environmental health is considered an externality to human activity, especially business – and given about 2% of our attention. Wtf?

Does the idea of not being able to eat because your food is not able to be grown bother you? What about water prices being so high only millionaires can afford fresh water? What about the millions of gallons of fresh water used in Colorado and Nebraska for fracking, filled with chemicals, undrinkable after use?

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Is this not a wake-up sign if you still need one? Not to say “humans caused California’s drought” (of which we may contribute, i’m not sure), but it is to say that we need to start dealing with these issues. And fast.

Drought, if you didn’t know, is a big fucking deal. In terms of JUST CALIFORNIA, check out these numbers:

“California produces a sizable majority of many American fruits, vegetables, and nuts: 99 percent of artichokes, 99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, and 69 percent of carrots (and the list goes on and on). Some of this is due to climate and soil. No other state, or even a combination of states, can match California’s output per acre. Lemon yields in California, for example, are more than 50 percent higher than in Arizona. California spinach yield per acre is 60 percent higher than the national average. Without California, supply of all these products in the United States and abroad would dip, and in the first few years, a few might be nearly impossible to find. Orchard-based products in particular, such as nuts and some fruits, would take many years to spring back.”

(Full article, press click.)

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I think this may be the future of climate change talk: no abstract charts, no global data graphs, no more talk about the ice-caps (although, I do love polar bears)…

… it’s time to start talking more concretely.

People need to know their communities are being affected. NASA outlines the effects of climate change on specific geographical areas in the US, which is really helpful when trying to explain actual consequences to the naysayers. I’m willing to bet other organizations have charts for your home state… or country. Google can help.

Humans need this sort of pragmatism. It must be observable. They must see it, feel it, hear it. We cannot forget humans are humans. They need to be capable of attaining a deep connection with the issue to want to do anything about it… give them that connection.

So, see how climate change affects your community, then talk and share.

Thoughts?

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Extreme Weather in U.S. Caused $19 Billion in Damage in 2014

An article from ThinkProgress found that extreme weather inside the United States, in 2014, alone, caused $19 billion in damages.


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Hey look, my home state, hosting the leading deniers of climate change, is number 1 on the list! That is, the state with most damage. Ironic, perhaps (although not certain).


Without attempting to draw too many lines…

Do you think these numbers will only increase as weather extremes are more frequently produced? What are your thoughts on the real consequences of climate change? Does putting it in terms of real dollar signs help the argument?

I think so. Fortunately (and unfortunately), many, especially politicians, respond to $$$ signs. I think this tool could be useful for promoting environmentalism – we are suffering tangible consequences to climate change, therefore we should do….

Perhaps it will help get the ball rolling in discussion with climate deniers: citizens and representatives.


Here’s an excerpt of thought regarding the issue…

“Evidence shows that we are living in an era of extreme weather,” the report said. “If trends continue, the government must increase investments in resilience strategies, such as climate-smart pre-disaster mitigation, fortified infrastructure, sustainable resource management planning, and scientific research.”

To read the full article, click here

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Ernst Being a Politician.

I’m disappointed (and, really, can only blame myself).

I spent 3 hours researching, verifying sources, and phrasing a single question for her… And she acted as predicted – blocked it. Well done, Ernst.

Despite her “trajectory” being started by the Koch network and her having not seen “proven proof” of human induced climate change… She got around the issue of her “IDK” stance on climate change. Slipped through our fingers.

Yesterday, I tried to video her response, but my cameras memory filled up (shutting off the video) about half way through my intro… I’m bummed I didn’t get it.

At any rate, I asked Senator Ernst,

“Can you speak to the relationship between your position of having ‘not seen… proof’ of climate change and the fact that your campaign was bankrolled by the nations leading climate change deniers?”

She combatted the question by stating something along the lines of…

“Bankrolled is a really a strong word… I’ve received a lot of national contributions from a lot of people… The climate has always been changing: we’ve had ice-ages, [blah, blah, blah]…. Can we all agree that the earth’s climate has changed in the past? What changed the climate before humans were around? It’s a cycle on Earth.”

*Heavy sigh*

Did I mention she mentioned she drives a Prius? God damnit.

Ernst +1, Me +0.

I take it as a learning opportunity: She was smart and articulate, and much more capable of an “escape” than I accredited. I underestimated her, and (perhaps) therefore suffered the consequences.

Whatever the case, I learned some things from the interaction: yes, politicians act like politicians; yes, she employed the “the climate has always been changing” tactic, which, apparently, is a “legitimate” argument (for the uneducated, though); and, she was prepared and skirted around the actual argument – she wasn’t naive.

Based on her tone, I really do think she believes what she said – “I don’t know the science.”

Now, forgetting that that’s a ridiculous argument and downright inexcusable – saying “I haven’t seen the data” – we all know she could find the proof, but she doesn’t want to. Why? She said she drives a Prius, and, therefore, must have some environmental conscience, right? So where’s the disconnect? Why doesn’t “she know”?

I think it’s one (or two or three) of three reasons:

1. She’s loyal to the Koch Network/Republican party – and lied to me.
2. She doesn’t want to know (Doesn’t care?).
3. She’s loyal to the beliefs of her home community/family (which, in Iowa, could very well be anti-global warming) – i.e. a product of her environment.

I’ve heard from other legislators that it’s very difficult being a politician that doesn’t buy into either the Democratic or Republican party – you’re ostracized from both parties, giving little room for “moderate” perspectives. So it’s possible she’s scared of saying anything that doesn’t fit in line with the mainstream Republican archetype. But I don’t think so… I think she doesn’t care to research it and she’s a product of her environment, making it doubly possible for her to have “never seen proof” – she doesn’t want to because she has little incentive to research it (beyond truth, but who gives a shit about that).

Lets give her incentive.

Lets tell her of the problems climate change is causing on Iowan agriculture! I’m sure she cares about that, because everyone from Iowa cares about agriculture – it’s the fucking backbone to this state. And, today we suffer real consequences to agricultural production because of climate change. We know this. She should, too.

So… Any thoughts? Am I drawing too many lines? Too little?

Let me know.

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