J500 Media and the Environment

Food for Everyone by marybethw

There are as many different types of consumers of local food as there are different types of urban farmers and different types of food grown. Consumers with different needs can all benefit from urban farming. Three farms on the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture farm tour explain this perfectly. Kurlbaum’s Heirloom Tomatoes, J-14 Agricultural Enterprises and the Troostwood Youth Garden and provide food for many different kinds of people. 


Kurlbaum’s heirloom tomatoes are sold locally at McGonigal’s, Brookside Market, and many Kansas City restaurants including Michael Smith’s in the crossroads, Café Trio in midtown and Webster House downtown. By selling to many different places Co-owner Liz Kurlbaum can have better control over the price and feed a larger group of people.  While this urban farmer chooses to sell their product mostly to restaurants, Joe Jennings at J-14 Agricultural Enterprises has a different approach.

Jennings has developed a community based CSA where potential customers can pay 300$ for up to 500 pounds of produce. Extra food is taken to elderly community members, including some in nursing homes. Jennings also uses some of the food grown for his family.

The Troostwood Youth Garden is the only place that fresh vegetables are available in the busy Paseo Blvd. neighborhood in Kansas City.  This local produce can be bought there Monday through Saturday before dark. Troostwood feeds the community as well as educates them about the importance of eating healthy and knowing where food really comes from.

These different urban farms show that everyone can eat well with the help of urban farmers. Whether someone is eating at a restaurant, buying a large supply of food for their family, or trying to find something fresh in a busy neighborhood, urban farming is helping people enjoy food that is local, healthy and delicious.

~ Tyler Waugh, Group 4 blog post

Farmer’s market photo credit.

V is for Victory and Veggies by meganr21

What is a Victory Garden?  A Victory Garden is a kitchen garden planted to relieve food shortages. Victory gardens were very commonplace during World War II.  World War II began in September 1939 and by January 1940 the United States began rationing food.  The government asked people to plant gardens to support the troops.  By growing their own food, it freed up commercially farmed fruits and vegetables for troops overseas.

By 1943 over 20 million Victory Gardens had sprung up throughout the United States in backyards, empty lots, even on rooftops in the city. As people began growing their own food canning became very popular so produce could be used outside of the growing season. The result? The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that during the war almost 10 million tons of fruits and vegetables were harvested at home and in the community.

My great grandmother had a victory garden and grew enough vegetables to supply fresh produce to some of her neighbors that were working in a defense plant.  She even built a root cellar where she kept potatoes, onions and canned vegetables and fruits to use during the winter months. She continued planting gardens and harvesting the bounty until her death at the age of 80.

When WWII ended the government stopped promoting Victory Gardens.  For many decades urban agriculture and home gardens fell by the wayside.  Driven by the economy many people are turning to home gardening this summer to supplement their diets. The recent revival of Victory Gardens leaves one question – have you decided what you’re planting this summer?

-Megan Richards, Group 1 – blog post

Photo credits: Fridge and Tunnel, Farms and Fields Project, Clemson

can serving coffee in polystyrene cups be the ‘greener’ choice? by jessicasb

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how two of my favorite coffee shops use polystyrene cups, one of those making the switch very recently. It was this latter coffee shop where I talked with a barista about their use of polystyrene cups.
polystyrene cups
A few months ago, this coffee shop was serving drinks in paper cups with java jackets. The owner of the shop stopped buying java jackets, and as any avid coffee drinker would know, the feeling of holding a hot cup of morning joe in a paper cup with no java jacket is definitely uncomfortable. “People were taking two cups,” the barista said. For the sake of saving money, and preventing people from taking two cups for every drink, they switched to the polystyrene cups.

“I was getting cussed at by customers” after the switch, she said. So she typed up a polystyrene fact sheet that’s posted on the shop’s register. It says polystyrene is 95% air and is recyclable, among other points. But is the fact sheet misleading, considering polystyrene is not biodegradable and hardly any students who frequent the shop would actually recycle their cup?

“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make working here,” the barista said about making the switch. But she said after looking into polystyrene, it wasn’t “any worse” than doubling up on two paper cups or using a paper cup and a java jacket.

The barista seemed open to discuss other environmental options, and really sympathized with customers’ defiance of their new cups. She said the coffee shop would have a new owner soon, and would possibly switch back to paper cups and java jackets then.

In the meantime, serving in polystyrene cups has shown a more environmentally friendly trend emerging from this shop’s customers.

“If we used paper cups, no one would bring their own cup,” the barista said. “No one wants to use foam, so everyone is bringing their own cup now.”

— Jessica Sain-Baird

This post is a follow-up to my post, “How much responsibility should your coffee shop have?” Thanks to Fillmore Photography for the image.

Laissez les bons temps rouler… at the dinner table, that is by marybethw


3363851089_2424d292e8Warm, puffy, flakey, and covered in powdered sugar. Beignets were one of the very few traditional southern Louisiana foods I’d eat as a vegetarian. Luckily, it’s placement in the French Quarter kept the original Cafe Du Monde (home of the best beignets in NOLA) site relatively safe when Katrina blew through in 2005. Beyond the Quarter was another story. Those without homes were also without food, even with aid coming in from around the globe. FEMA also kept those people in the local food industry (and, indeed, food is one thing New Orleans knows well) willing to use those skills to feed the hungry from doing so in the months that followed. 

Not only did the storm ruin the coastal population’s food supply, but it also hurt the food suppliers. Seafood has always been a major industry in southern Louisiana, with the state being America’s biggest shrimp producer. However, Katrina severely damaged an industry that was already beginning to hurt from foreign shrimp imports. So that, while NOLAs restaurants are making a slow comeback, other food industries in the area are having a harder time. Individuals are struggling as well, with the current economy hurting already overtaxed food banks.

2008_10_06splande1As the storm came and went I watched on TV; in the time since, I’ve watched in anger as the government left southern Louisiana on it’s own. I visited New Orleans for the first time, post-Katrina, in July 2008; we went through the Upper and Lower 9th Wards and into St. Bernard Parish. Many houses still had water lines on them and spray paint, where they were checked for bodies. Many businesses and government offices are still closed. Many people are still awaiting government assistance. Although it’s been years since I lived in southern Louisiana, my parents still do and, even if I’d never lived there I’d be hard pressed to not be struck by how much still needs doing, over three years later. While tourism has helped the restaurants, many individuals still await their own housing and a table for family meals. 

~ Mary Beth

Photo credits: Beignets, Marked house

Hell on Jalisco Ridge by brennad87

Looking out from the cave in Jalisco Ridge at the impossible journey.

Looking out from the cave in Jalisco Ridge at the impossible journey migrants crossing the border must make.


I was in a place where no human should be, and yet evidence of human suffering surrounded me. In front of me, the Sonoran desert extended as far as I could see—rolling mountains and ravines covered with low brush and waving ocotillos—deceptively beautiful. Yet beside me, under my feet, all around me were remnants of human desperation. There were dirty, crumpled blankets; wrappers and cans; water bottles and flasks. There were discarded jeans, soiled maxi pads. There were open bottles of glue—sniffed to keep pain and hunger away. There were bras dangling from tree branches—on display as rape trophies.

I was standing where, only a night or two before, a large group of undocumented migrants making the crossing from Mexico to the United States had rested. We had stumbled upon the cave cut into the edge of Jalisco Ridge, a place so remote it could be the end of the world. We had stumbled upon a beautiful, terrible hell.

Human debris left by migrants on the trail.

Human debris left by migrants on the trail.

It was a visceral example of how current policy forces people into into opposition with an extreme environment. No one would intentionally destroy a place this beautiful, except if desperate. And anyone in this desert is desperate.  They are desperate for work, desperate for a better life, desperate to rejoin friends and family in the still mystical El Norte. They are so desperate at the hands of economics and politics that they will attempt to cross this no-mans land.

The desert is cruel. In twenty-four hours, temperatures reach both extremes— hypothermia or hyperthermia can kill you. So can a rattlesnake or a scorpion. The desert gives no water—and it is physically impossible for a person to carry enough water to make it across. Since the early nineties, US Border Patrol has focused on closing all routes into the country save access through the desert.  The strategy “prevention through deterrence” was instituted during the Clinton administration. The hope was that the desert would deter migrants. It doesn’t—it kills them. More than 47% of the Mexican undocumented migrants currently in the United States have arrived since the year 2000.  But a migrant is 3 times more likely to die during their crossing than they were in the early nineties.  This year, volunteers have discovered 183 bodies. Many more will remain unfound. Many more will die.

Inferno in Sonora.


There is an old Indian legend that the desert caves are inhabited by witches.  I could feel her presence in that cave. She was angry.  She was angry that someone had entered her sacred space. She was taking bloodthirsty retribution.


The Other Side of Capitalism by justinl7

2628417520_db5a2c2ac5You could say Jagroop Singh is succeeding. He has 65 times as many cows as he did just one decade ago. Of course, back then, he only had one cow.

He is now making far more money, though. He receives 15 rupees for every litre of milk — three times what he made just two years ago. The milk, he sells to Nestle India, whose nearby factory blasts it into a powder and sells it abroad.
But Singh, among others, has stopped growing grain. And thanks to droughts and the subsequent rice shortage, grain prices have skyrocketed. 

In a capitalist economy, increased efficiency = increased profit, and increased profit = improved lifestyle. This is the central guiding principle. By that standard, India, whose economy is growing 9% a year, is succeeding.

But in the agricultural sector, India's growth has declined, from 4.7 per cent between 1992-1997 to just 1.5 per cent between 2002-2006. And see, therein lies the rub. In places like India and China, more people have more money. They live in the cities, and naturally, they expect to eat more diverse food, food that is usually imported.
They have no grain, so they live off the grain of others. Americans pulled a similar trick in the housing market, when they bought up sub-prime mortgages using loans that were beyond their means to repay. In both cases, the idea is that future growth will make up the difference.
And in general, it has! US gross domestic product has risen constantly  for years, and along with it, inflation.  The idea that our production might flatten out... or drop... is unthinkable! That's why it's called capitalism, after all- our job is to convert resources into capital, and use that capital to encourage further growth. 
But, can we realistically expect this growth to continue forever? Singh may find himself with 65 bony cows, and not enough grain to feed them!
The wise man, they say, lives within his means. Capitalism pushes for growth at all costs, even if those costs are beyond your means. Can that possibly be wise?  
Justin Leverett no longer sleeps. :)

how much responsibility should your coffee shop have? by jessicasb

Every time I walk into my favorite coffee shop downtown, I am greeted with a tiny sign explaining why it uses polystyrene cups.

Expanded polystyrene is mostly just air, it says, and is recyclable. A few months ago, another favorite coffee shop of mine made the switch from paper cups to polystyrene cups. This shop has even adopted the same friendly sign that reminds customers that no, polystyrene is nothing to be afraid of.

But polystyrene — a.k.a. styrofoam — is more harmful than that. It isn’t biodegradable at all and it’s tough to find polystyrene recyclers

It’s easy to understand why polystyrene is a popular material for businesses — it’s cheap (no additional cup sleeves) and does the trick (keeps hot drinks hot, cold drinks cold).

Santa Cruz County in California banned polystyrene products last year because of waste problems. Should every city — or green-minded coffee shop — be as proactive against this material?

I’ve tried to offset the use of polystyrene by my favorite coffee shops by bringing my own mug (I’ve never been to a cafe that didn’t give a discount for this!), or keeping any polystyrene cup I get coffee in and reusing it once or twice.

It isn’t just that my favorite coffee shops use polystyrene, though — it’s the fact that they try to defend it by making it seem harmless.

Does your favorite coffee shop use polystyrene cups? Or would you refuse to buy drinks there, at least when you’re on the go, if they did? And why do some businesses even try to still defend polystyrene?

— Jessica Sain-Baird

Thanks to kwanie for the picture.

The forecast calls for white-out conditions by mackenzies09

Cocaine. It’s the drug of choice for uptown socialites, swanky power brokers and runway darlings. For many it is a status symbol, the chicest of highs.

In reality it is an ecological symbol of destruction. Every step of the cocaine production process involves environmental devastation. Every gram of cocaine destroys four square meters of rainforest, causing soil erosion, landslides, and species extinction. Colombia’s rainforests are home to approximately 10 percent of the world’s species and more than 51,000 species of plants. The Amazon alone creates 15 percent of the world’s oxygen supply. Will a blizzard of cocaine production freeze out this fragile life force?

Chemicals used to process the raw coca leaves, diesel, kerosene, sulfuric acid, acetone, and carbide are often dumped into rivers and streams, polluting vital water sources and killing aquatic species.

Colombia produces 60 percent of the world’s cocaine supply each year. And despite the “efforts” of the US drug policy, it isn’t slowing in the slightest. The UN reported  a 27 percent increase in coca growth from 2007 to 2008.

Coca offers the best livable wage to Colombian farmers who create a paste from its narcotic elements. Traffickers pay little more than the cost of production supplies, which are often paid for on credit. These traffickers then turnaround and make a huge profit by selling processed cocaine in the US and Europe. In the meantime, the farmers must grow more and more coca to pay their debts and keep food on the table.

And there are countless causalities who are gunned down by drug lords and petty street criminals. South American traffickers work directly with Mexican cartels, pushing the war zone farther north. This intricate web of violence has now spread to 230 US cities.

Cocaine destroys people, from the rich who snort it up their rhinoplastic noses to the poor Colombian farmers who slave over it.

What does it say about Americans, whose status symbol is a shackle that threatens to pull us from our high and sink us all?


video courtesy of youtube

image cred

The Ax in My Side by alyv

I’m so glad my TV got fried during that electric storm.

Now I don’t even have to cr1546_deforestationoss paths with that horrible excuse for “entertainment” on the History Channel: Ax Men.

You know, that show that paints loggers as these heroic, last frontiersmen who brave the elements of nature for their high-risk job.

What a bunch of crap. Ax Men no more promotes American heroism than Stephen Colbert actually supported George W. Bush.

Do you know what the catch for this season is? It’s a competition between five logging companies in the Northwest to see which one can tear down the most trees. Yeah, real heroic, guys.

Here’s what the show fails to mention:

  • More than 1.2 billion people across the world rely on forest resources to survive.
  • About 70 percent of the planet’s plants and animals live in forests. Some forests – such as the old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest where our friends the Ax Men are so happily chucking away – are the only places where certain animals live.
  • Every two seconds, a forest the size of a football field is cut down – now for our viewing pleasure. Eighty percent of the planet’s ancient forests are gone forever.
  • Because of the vast number of harvested trees, deforestation contributes 20 percent to 25 percent of all carbon emissions.

But the craziest thing about all this is?

Most of the information I cited is on the History Channel Web site.

Here’s an organization that loyally promotes deforestation, but has an entire Earth at Risk package describing the main factors of the earth’s destruction, highlighting deforestation as one of them. The channel also cites global warming as the cause of two “Mega Disasters” that could wipe out large portions of the human population.

I mean, are these people idiots? Do they actually watch what they expect us to? Is this some sad attempt to “show both sides of the story”?

Or is it a way to justify the money they make by destroying the earth?

I’ll let you be the judge. But as I said, I’m just happy I don’t have a TV.

Which one is it, History Channel?


Thanks to YouTube (2) for the videos.

Thanks to Brockernation for the picture.

How ending wars can save the environment by bryand09
Uploaded to Flickr.com on September 28, 2008 by Wild-Jungleman

Uploaded to Flickr.com on September 28, 2008 by Wild-Jungleman

By himself, Obama cannot clean up the environment, stop global warming, or create a single green job.

Stop for a second and really take this statement in. It may seem obvious, but with all the demands competing for Obama’s attention, an outsider might think US citizens have forgotten the basics of US Civics 101.

Pop quiz: what is the president’s job? Between signing statements and executive orders, we may have forgotten that it’s not the president’s job to make laws but to make sure they are being followed. His job is to make sure the laws are being “executed,” hence the “executive” branch.

Today, our president is our chief economic adviser who talks with the media about spending more money that we can possibly conceptualize. But just because he isn’t a legislature, that does not mean he can’t help the environmental movement.

Take his power as commander and chief of the military. Obama has the power to bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan but instead is sending 17,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan and staying at least one more year in Iraq.

The environmental damages caused by war may be obvious. But the real killer is all the money we are spending abroad when we have so many problems at home. The congressional budget office estimates that we will spend 2.6 trillion dollars fighting these wars by the end of 2010.

It all comes back to spending and what we choose to spend our money on. Look at how much we spend on defense as opposed to energy. Look at how much we spend on education compared to health care. If we taught people how to eat healthy and prevented our ground water and food supply from being contaminated, would we need to spend so much on health care years down the line? If we spend a trillion dollars on wind turbines, would we really need to fight wars over oil?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46 other followers