August 20, 2010

Gulf spill not a big deal?

75 percent of it gone?

That's not what Dan Cristol from the Biology Department at the College of William and Mary wrote last week in the Virginia Gazette:
Microbes don’t break oil down when it’s at great depth, or if conditions aren’t ideal. Often it breaks down incompletely, into other toxic substances. Dispersed oil can no longer be detected, but has not left the food chain and will continue to circulate in the bodies of animals as they eat one another. Oil that has left the Gulf or is lying on the bottom is not gone. And even if 50% or 25% were gone, that’s still millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf remaining to poison seafood and wildlife.

The comparisons of numbers of dead animals, particularly birds, is deceptive. Because the Gulf spill occurred far offshore, at great depth, most of the dead whales and tuna and birds will never wash up onshore as they did after the nearshore Exxon Valdez spill. Further, birds don’t nest in vast, dense colonies on the shores of the Gulf as they do in the Arctic, so the immediate impact is smaller. However, all of our neotropical migrant birds will travel to the Gulf this autumn and attempt a crossing to the Caribbean or Central America. Being fouled with tarballs, failing to find safe roosts in devastated marsh habitat, or eating oil-laden crabs before setting out on the journey will doom them. The people that I have spoken to who are actually monitoring habitat and birds in the Gulf all say something like “It’s far worse than you could ever imagine” when I ask them about what they are finding. They didn’t get the memo that all the oil has magically disappeared.

Why are we being fed this obvious deception? Everyone wants to feel better now that the well may be plugged. Probably, industry and government spin doctors want to prepare the public for a rapid return to eating Gulf seafood (which now contains some of that missing oil), drilling deep wells and energy exploration far off the Atlantic Coast. Ecological studies take a long time, as does vetting of data. Don’t believe anything you hear from scientists until their data have been through the peer-review process, which takes months. The ecological impacts of all that devastation offshore will be felt onshore eventually, it's not time to celebrate yet.

What you may not know about subsidized energy

Listen up!

Many complain about the current subsidies that solar and wind energy programs are receiving--about $12.2 billion for all forms of renewable energy from 2002 to 2008 (according to the International Energy Agency). They interpret that to mean that renewable energy is more expensive than coal and oil.

OOPS. Guess they don't know that "dirty energy" is also subsidized, and has been for eons. In that same time period from 2002 and 2008, the U.S. government provided $70.2 billion in subsidies for fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas. Then there are the "hidden costs" (taxes, you might call them) for asthma and other respiratory diseases worsened by the accompanying emissions, as well as environmental damage--such as what we're seeing big time right now. Oh, I might mention the mountaintop removal problem as well, and greenhouse gases if you're worried about climate change. On the world stage, the fossil fuels folks got $557 billion in subsidies--NOT a paltry sum!

So, whether you admit it or not, YOU are paying a LOT more than you realize when you fill your gas tank, turn on your lights, or heat your home.

August 8, 2010

"Farm to fork" is getting easier

Calling all locavores! No need to wait for the Saturday Farmers' Market.

Heidi Martin and her daughter Emily make eating local “farm to fork” foods especially easy at  “Heidi’s Homegrown & Organics,” She offers an amazing selection of in-season produce from 15 local farmers who use sustainable farming practices--all of them within 30 miles. Then there's USDA-certified organic products such as pastas, wheat berries, juices, flours, grains, soup mixes, bulk spices, Tofu, Grass-fed meats, local pure- raw honey, and homemade jams.

Let your children experience a "blast from the past" (if you're old enough to remember the milk man) by ordering milk in glass bottles that you can return to Heidi for the farmers to use again.

Heidi offfers a third party CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with 15 local farmers. You can buy a share and get 5-10 varieties of fruits and vegetables each week during the April to September 2011 growing season.

Several other business and organizations deserve mention too. Check out the following organizations, co-ops, and markets that are making a significant difference in supporting the message of buying local and being green:
Get more ideas from “The 100 Mile Diet” website about the really serious Canadian locavore couple who made a year-long attempt to eat foods grown and produced within a 100-mile radius of their apartment, then wrote a book about their experience.

Most of us pay a premium to buy out-of-season fruits and vegetables. A fresh pineapple is yummy, but the miles it traveled to Virginia make me cringe. I'd prefer to support a local farmer rather than pay for the jet fuel to fly it to me from Hawaii. Even those juicy South Carolina or Georgia peaches use a lot of diesel to truck it to Virginia. But remember, you can start small.

One of my favorite farmers' markets, however, is the Williamsburg Farmers Market on Duke of Gloucester Street. It's been around for years and the vendors do a fantastic job every Saturday morning from 830-12:30; then again on Tuesdays during the summer, from 10-2.

They even provide a nifty--and humongous-- list of recipes from local restaurants and vendors on their website.

Artificial colors, anyone?

This is the stuff of nightmares!

The FDA offers a nifty “Color Additive Status List” that will open your eyes about those Red Dyes No. Whatever and the plethora of artificial colors you might encounter in foods, drugs, and cosmetics.

Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, color additives, except for coal tar hair dyes, are subject to FDA approval before they may be used in food, drugs, or cosmetics. However, we have become very compacent and trusting about the stuff we swallow, inhale, and smear on our bodies.

The FDA website offers this "interesting" info:
Reactions to color additives are rare. It is possible, but rare, to have an allergic-type reaction to a color additive. For example, FD&C Yellow No. 5 may cause itching and hives in some people. This color additive is widely found in beverages, desserts, processed vegetables, drugs, makeup, and other products. FDA requires all products containing FD&C Yellow No. 5 to identify it on their labels so that consumers who are sensitive to the dye can avoid it. On medicine labels, this certified color additive is also identified by its uncertified name, "tartrazine."

Hmmm. Read their education piece at

August 7, 2010

Oil gone? Really?

Didn't your mother always say that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is?

And what about the almost 2 million gallons of that Corexit dispersant?

See what the folks at Grist have to say about the disappearing oil. Their article quotes a few watermen in the Gulf who are witnessing surprising behavior from some of the sea creatures.